Kabocha Squash: A Tasty Raw Food Treat

Kabocha squash is a surprisingly awesome raw food I've come to love.

On a recent trip to Thailand I was served several salads topped with some unidentified spiralized vegetable, and was quickly won over.

When I inquired in my abysmal Thai to find out what it was, I didn't get too far. The Thais simply call it pumpkin in English, so it took me awhile to figure out what I was dealing with. Finally, I tracked it down at a local market.

It turned out to be Japanese kabocha squash, which is popular throughout much of Asia. The Thais call it fak thong in their own language, and serve it in all kinds of dishes. Those who've heard of kabocha tend to think it's only usable in cooked meals, but I was surprised to find it had other uses as well. 

Using Kabocha Squash Raw

Kabocha Squash

The best way I've found to use raw kabocha squash is to spiralize it.

I've long enjoyed creating raw pastas of various consistencies using cucumbers, zucchini, and various other summer squashes, but using winter squash hadn't occurred to me.

Turns out I've been missing out, because kabocha seems to incorporate the best of both worlds. I like the mild taste of cucumber, but find it too watery; its juice tends to heavily dilute whatever sauce I put on it.

Zucchini overcomes the dilution problem with its dryness, and more closely
resembles the consistency of pasta, but the taste could be better.

Kabocha is dry, has a consistency similar to that of pasta, and has only a mild flavor in its uncooked state. You could call it vaguely sweet, it digests well, and it goes well with a variety of salad and sauce types.

My favorite thing to do with it is to put a nice raw tomato sauce on it.

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Finding Kabocha Squash

Kabocha may be a bit tough to find outside of Asia, where it's a staple. In The United States, California dominates production. Most of the crop is exported to Japan, but some of it is consumed in the country, and it's easiest to find on the west coast.

Kabocha Squash MarketAlthough I didn't realize what it was at the time, I've seen Kabocha at several asian markets and China towns in the US, and they're likely your best bet for if you're looking to purchase it.

High-end grocers and health food stores with produce departments may also stock it.

Another option is to simply grow it in your garden. Although originally tropical, it grows well in most temperate climates.

Ripening Your Kabocha

Wondering why some of these squashes are sweet and bright orange while others are pale yellow and have virtually no flavor? I recently asked a farmer and got some good advice from him:

"When kabocha is harvested, it's still growing and ripening, so buying fresh kabocha with the idea of eating it soon is probably a bad idea. You'll need to mature it first if you want flavor and that nice deep orange color you're looking for.

First, ripen it in a warm area for 13-15 days. During this time the starch converts to carbs. You can eat it then, but it'll be even better if you then put it in a cool place and store it 1.5 to 3 months."

Following Up

Learn how kabocha squash fits into the group of healthy vegetables you should be eating.

Learn about other squash.

Get on a healthy raw food diet.

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