On a recent ramble through the farmers market, a sign caught my eye: “Kabucha, $2.00/lb, tastes like chestnuts.”
I’ve always been a fan of the taste of chestnuts, but not the hand-destroying labor it takes to get at the meat. The boiling. The hashing of the impossibly hard shells. The roasting. The peeling. Oy, it’s enough to make anyone swear them off for life. But the idea that a simple-to-cook squash could deliver that taste was intriguing.
I inquired of the farmer and he confirmed that the squash, also called kabocha and Japanese pumpkin, does indeed mimic the flavor of chestnuts — with the sweetness and texture of an autumn squash. It is similar to pumpkins, butternut or acorn squash, but a bit more interesting.
Kabuchas are harvested in the fall and are often picked before they are fully ripe. They are stored at a warm temperature to ripen and sweeten, then stored cold for about a month to refine the texture. For this reason, they are often available through the winter.
The farmer advised that roasted kabucha was wonderful with roast chicken, which was fortuitous as that was my meal plan for the evening. I bought the kabocha and ferried it home.
It came out beautifully — velvet and sweet and starchy enough to deliver comfort food decadence without the guilt or fat associated with, say, mashed potatoes. It was relatively easy to handle in terms of cutting and removing pits, and the skin can be eaten so no peeling is required.
Nutritionally, kabucha is a powerhouse. It is an excellent source of beta carotene and vitamins A and C. It also contains decent amounts of vitamin B6, B12, folate and manganese.
The roasted kabucha was delicious with our roast chicken, just as the farmer promised, and the leftovers were heavenly chopped into bite-sized chunks and served cold over a winter green salad.
1 large, ripe kabucha
1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the kabucha in half, remove the seeds and cut it into wedges.
2. Place the wedges on a rimmed cooking sheet, skin side down, and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Bake for about 40 minutes until the kabucha is soft and cooked through.