Updated: Nov 22, 2021
Kabocha squash is a hearty, winter squash that is typically grown in gardens during the autumn months. Kabocha can be found at many grocery stores and farmers' markets throughout the year. This article will provide you with basic information for growing, cooking, and eating kabocha as well as some helpful tips to ensure success in your garden!
I remember the day I set out to plant my first kabocha squash. The ground was soft and wet from a recent rainstorm, perfect for planting while it’s still keeping some moisture in the soil for those early days. You know those little green shoots will break through soon enough if you do your job right! So I went ahead and dug a small hole with my shovel, then smoothed it out by tamping down soil until it was flat. Next came removing all of the weeds that were trying to take over this space, but they resisted me at first so I had to be strong and persistent until they surrendered under my feet. Finally, there wasn't anything left in the way between me and my new crop, so I cleaned the dirt from my hands, and from my shovel, and now the long and wait to harvest these lovely squashes.
Kabocha Squash Seed Starting
Kabocha squash can be started from seed indoors or outside in warm soil. The seeds should sprout within a few days of planting and grow to maturity in one season (approximately two months). Kabocha is hardy enough to withstand frost so it can be planted outdoors April through June for an autumn harvest.
If planting outside: Plant after danger of frost has past
Using soil blocks is an excellent way to start your seeds. Make your soil blocks, add them to a clear plastic container, and place them in a sunny location or under grow lights. Using a plastic container with a lid will create condensation so your seeds will stay moist and they will not need to be watered continually. Doing this will ensure that your seedlings will not be leggy when they germinate because they will have light soon after germination. When seedlings don't get the sunlight or grow light, they will grow tall and skinny. These will not be healthy or strong seedlings.
Using a heat mat will also help your seedlings to germinate. Kabocha seeds germinate best in temperatures from 70 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soil Requirements for Kabocha Squash
- Kabocha squash requires well-draining soil, with an adequate supply of organic matter
- The pH level for kabocha should be between six and seven
- Add lime to your soil if it is too acidic and not within this range
- Kabocha are heavy feeders. So make sure you use plenty of compost in the top four inches of the soil or fertilize every fortnightly during the summer months
Water Requirements for Kabocha Squash
Water requirements vary depending on how much sun exposure there is but most kabocha need about an inch per week if grown in full sunlight without extra mulching.
Sunlight Requirements for Kabocha Squash
Kabocha squash require a lot of sunlight, at least six hours per day to grow well and produce good-sized fruits with edible skin. The more sun exposure the squash plant gets, the larger they will be as long as there is enough water available for them to stay moist. Kabocha is considered part of the vine crop along with cucumbers and gourds but unlike these other plants that usually need support structures or trellises to climb on, kabocha's can simply sprawl across open ground without any assistance and still thrive.
Kabocha Squash Growing Tips
- Kabocha needs a lot of room to grow. If you have limited space, plant them in two parallel rows and stagger the plants so that one row is on either side of the other row
- Kabocha need lots of water! Water twice per week with deep watering.
- Kabocha like a lot of sunlight. Plant the kabocha in an area that gets at least six hours of sun per day.
- Place your seedling outside once the last frost has passed and daytime temperatures are consistently above 40 degrees Fahrenheit
Nutrition and Health Benefits of Kabocha Squash
The nutritional benefits of kabocha squash include a wide array of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. Kabocha is also high in fiber which helps support healthy digestion and heart health!
- Kabocha is low calorie (100 g or about one cup contains 40 calories) yet very filling due to their high fiber content.
- Kabocha provide the recommended daily allowance for vitamin A per 100g with carotene levels that can range from 7000 IU to 30 000 IUs.
- Due to its rich source of antioxidants such as beta carotenes, you'll be able to reduce the risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease by up to 20%.
Some of the health benefits that have been attributed to kabocha squash include:
- Kabocha help regulate blood sugar levels and can reduce the risk for diabetes.
- Kabocha contain lutein, which is important in your eye's ability to see clearly at night time. High concentrations of lutein are found in areas rich with hemoglobin such as retinae, lens, and cornea. Lutein helps prevent macular degeneration by shielding our eyes against free radicals produced from sunlight exposure (although wearing sunglasses or a hat outdoors during sunny hours will also protect you). A diet high in kabocha may be linked to lower risks of age-related cataract development.
- Kabocha are filling and may help reduce weight.
- Kabocha has a high antioxidant content. One cup of kabocha contains 82% as many antioxidants as one orange! Antioxidants fight free radicals that cause wrinkles by protecting collagen fibers from oxidation. They also protect the DNA inside cells from damage caused by environmental factors such as exposure to smoke or UV rays, thereby reducing our risk for cancer and heart disease. You can eat them raw and get the benefits too but their taste isn't great so you'll have to cook them a bit to bring out the sweet flavor.
- Kabocha is high in potassium and carotenoids, which are both good for strong muscles and bones because they regulate the balance of water inside cells!
How to Eat Kabocha Squash
- Kabocha Squash can be eaten raw, boiled, or roasted.
- Kabocha Squash is a Japanese variety of pumpkin that can be cooked like any other squash. It has a light, delicate flavor and cooks down to have a consistency similar to mashed potatoes or stuffing.
- Kabocha Squash can be roasted, boiled, steamed, or baked.
- Kabocha Squash does not need additional sweeteners because it naturally contains sugar from the fruit in its skin; however, if you want to add sweetness you may use brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup when cooking this squash.
- When boiling kabocha squash for soup: peel off both sides of the skin with a vegetable peeler then cut into cubes before adding them to water on high heat for about 15 minutes.
- When roasting Kabocha Squash: peel off both sides of the skin with a vegetable peeler then cut into cubes, toss in olive oil and salt before placing on an oven tray. Roast the kabocha at 350°F for 30 minutes or until soft inside and golden brown outside.
- When baking Kabocha Squash: follow above instructions but roast it at 375°F instead of 350°F; if you want to make some more interesting dishes, try stuffing baked kabocha squash shells with quinoa, lentils, rice, vegetables, meat (such as ground beef), cheeses and spices such as thyme and sage; bake for 45 minutes uncovered near the center rack in your oven.
So, if you're looking for a way to get your kids to eat their veggies and want something that will grow in the garden with minimal effort - look no further than this tasty squash. Let me know how it goes!
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