Kabocha winter squash has a history as wild and delicious as the fruit's tender flesh.
This ancient edible was first domesticated in Mesoamerica (the modern-day countries of northern Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and central to southern Mexico) between 8,000-10,000 years ago! Before even maize or beans, Mesoamerica's most celebrated crops.
in 1541, Portuguese sailors took kabocha with them from Cambodia to Japan. The Portuguese name for it, "Camboja abóbora," was shortened by the Japanese to "kabocha."
Since then, its popularity has been on the rise, and it remains heavily featured on menus in Japan, Korea, Thailand, and America.
Kabocha has firm, orange flesh under its thin, edible, knobbly green skin. When cooked, its natural sweetness emerges. Its flavor is compared to sweet potato, pumpkin, or sometimes chestnuts.
Kabocha is a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with beta carotene, iron, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and folic acid — vitamins and minerals that are especially treasured for pregnancy and postpartum recovery.
It really shines in soups and stews, thanks to its natural thickening quality and soothing essence — making it a beloved ingredient for the winter months. But we also love it roasted and chopped into a salad, or fried in tempura... it's even used to make a Korean tea!
You might notice kabocha making an appearance in the MB Meals menu options for your local area (and if you do, snap 'em up!).
In the meantime, here is a recipe that's on popular rotation in our kitchens this season: Creamy Kabocha & Red Lentil Soup