Moist, dense, sweet, earthy, and almost nutty in flavor, kabocha squash is actually one of my absolute favorite foods (even more favored than pumpkin, if I may be so bold).

kabochasoupSince we are now in the lovely season of autumn, one of my absolute favorite seasons, I thought it only fitting to celebrate the onset of winter squashes. Kabocha squash is a cucurbita maxima variety of winter squash. It is also referred to as Japanese pumpkin, not least because it is such a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. In fact, it is a common ingredient in many Asian dishes, if you’ve ever ordered Pumpkin Curry in your local Thai restaurant you were actually eating Kabocha squash.

From a culinary perspective, kabocha squash is versatile, delicious, and nutritious. It is great in both savory and sweet recipes, partly because it has a more complex and slightly stronger flavor palate than other squashes. Its density makes it great to cook and bake with. I tend to use it in recipes that traditionally call for pumpkin just because it is yummier and denser. It makes delicious soup, stew, pumpkin bread, cookies, curry, stir-fry, and on and on. It’s even delicious in raw recipes and you can leave the skin on, since it’s edible too. Another little tip for using kabocha squash? As a puree, it makes a great thickener. For example, it makes a great base to tomato free chili, oh yes.

roasted kabochaFrom a health perspective, kabocha squash is full of good stuff. It’s lower in carbohydrate content than other winter squashes but higher in fiber. It is also lower in calorie than its winter counterparts. It is packed with beta-carotene, which helps reduce the risk of certain cancers and other ailments like macular degeneration. It is a good source of vitamins B and C as well as A. Kabocha also contains a significant amount of pectin, hence the thickening quality. Pectin helps your body in a variety of ways; it contributes to lower cholesterol levels, helps to clear the body of heavy metals, contributes to tissue repair in the gastrointestinal tract, and is useful in glucose regulation. Studies have demonstrated that consuming foods high in pectin can also help reduce the risk and occurrence of prostate cancer. It’s another one of those foods that induces apoptosis in mutated cells while helping the healthy cells get healthier.
Sounds like the perfect reason to celebrate the onset of Autumn with some delicious kabocha squash.
Not sure how to get more squash in your diet? Here’s a super simple way to get started:

Take one small kabocha squash, wash it well because you will leave the skin on, then cut it into cubes, chunks, or thin long slices, toss them in olive oil (or coconut oil), cumin and a pinch of sea salt. Bake at 375 degrees until soft. Sprinkle with roasted hazelnuts and Enjoy!