Sugar pumpkins....mm mmmm....often the choice for the luscious yet velvety pie to celebrate the season filled with foliage, and thankful wishes. While roaming the farmer's market that spanned the 3 square blocks of Union Square in NYC, bombarded by stands with farmers proudly displayed various species of squash and pumpkin, I could not pass on this opportunity to conduct experiments with this knobbly-looking one....the Kabocha!
Kabocha is a Japanese variety of winter squash that is commonly known as the Japanese pumpkin. Today many of the kabocha in the market are of the type called Kuri kabocha, which was created based on Seiyo kabocha (buttercup squash). It's popular for its intense yet sweet flavour and moist, fluffy texture, which is similar to its perfect partner, the chestnut.
Kabocha is firm one shaped like a squatty pumpkin, and has a dull finished deep green skin with some celadon-to-white stripes that wraps the an intense yellow-orange flesh within, which often reminds me of sunflowers gazing the setting sun in Italy.
With its amiable flesh comes the explosive package of nutrients; Kabocha is high in carotene and could provide protective effects against vision loss, heart disease, and cancer. It is also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C & E and iron, with smaller traces of calcium, folic acid, and minute amounts of B vitamins.
When kabocha is just harvested, it is still growing. Therefore, unlike other vegetables and fruits, freshness is not as important. It should be fully matured first, in order to become flavorful. First, kabocha is ripened in a warm place (77°F) for 13 days, during which some of the starch converts to carbohydrate content. Then it is transferred to a cool place (50°F) and stored for about a month in order to increase its carbohydrate content. In this way the just-harvested, dry, bland-tasting kabocha is transformed into smooth, sweet kabocha. Fully ripened, succulent kabocha will have reddish-yellow flesh and a hard skin with a dry, corky stem. It reaches the peak of ripeness about 1.5–3 months after it is harvested.
With this golden gem roasting in the oven, the experiments begin....