Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Kabocha Universe

We harvested our first "kabocha" (Japanese pumpkin) from our garden. I read somewhere that kabocha originated from Cambodia, then and brought to Japan by the Portuguese in the 1500's. But we were happy to know that it will grow quite well in southern California.

The kabocha plant started out as seeds. After eating one for dinner one day (in late May), we stuck a few seeds in the soil. I was curious if they would grow, and then they sprouted. The plants grew, and grew, and grew... a bit on the wild side.

The sprawling vines extended around 20 feet down our hillside. It created its own "universe", and its broad leaves offered shade to lizards and other small creatures.

After a couple weeks, male and female flowers appeared. The big yellow kabocha flowers were pollinated by bees, and some "fruits" begins to form. (I've been told the flowers are good to eat as well.)

In the photo below, a dark green kabocha squash begins to form. We counted five of them.

The only complication we experienced was that this year was "cool" summer in Los Angeles, and mildew developed on some of large leaves. I sprayed the leaves with a mixture of baking soda and water. This seem to help.

After two months of growth, the leaves surrounding each squash started to turn yellow and then brown, and it was ready to pick.

However, one "surprise" was that a second round of growth started up. New leaves, flowers, and several more squashes are developing at this moment, so we look forward to possibly another harvest later this Fall.

Nutrition-wise, kabocha is high in beta carotene, iron, vitamin C, and potassium.

Usually when we cook it, we just cut it up into smaller pieces and steam it. Kabocha has sort of a dry starchy texture like a potato. We ate our first organic homegrown kabocha -- and it was good!

While it's often a challenge to have kids eat vegetables, Hikaru enjoyed it as well (probably because it's a little sweet).

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