Hey, we're not saying we're not going to miss those summer squashes. Or even that we don't love the whole squash repertoire that comes with winter. But, kabocha - also known as Japanese pumpkin - is the undeniable, and oft overlooked, favorite this season. If you've encountered this unassuming gem, it has most likely been that buttery component of a Thai curry you just couldn't place or a veggie tempura deight. It's time to make kabocha the star that it deserves to be. Here are eight reasons we think you should wrap yourself up in a kabocha blanket this winter. (Well, not really.)
1. Kabocha is like butternut squash's sadly underappreciated sister. A single cup of kabocha has forty calories compared to butternut squash's 60, and has less than half of the carbs of butternut squash (7 grams vs. 16 grams). But, it tastes better... the perfect substitute.
2. Kabocha squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, owing to it's bright orange flesh, which can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy white blood cells, good immunity and for vibrant eyes, skin and hair. A single serving of kabocha squash provides 70% of the day's recommended requirement!
3. Kabocha is also a good source of iron, vitamin C and some B vitamins.
4. In addition, it contains fiber, which we could all use a little more of. To boost the fiber content even more, cook it with the edible skins on.
5. Which brings us to the next great advantage: You can eat the peel! And it is soft and delicious.
6. Who needs cornstarch? Thicken your soups with kabocha. Simply take a fork to your cooked kabocha and mash it up until you reach your desired consistency.
7. Kabocha is a dieter's delight. Make a whole pot of kabocha stew mixed in with other veggies (I like leeks and fennel) and eat it for the whole week. You're bound to drop a few, so long as it's not accompanied by bread slathered in butter.
8. Can we say versatile? Kabocha can be roasted in the oven simply (perhaps with a dusting of cinnamon) or can create a creamy base for any soup. The world of desserts can also be explored with this 'pumpkin'.
Note: Purchase your kabocha locally and organically at a farmers market, that way you ensure it has not traveled halfway around the world to get to you.