Thinking of adding to your squash varieties in your garden, but aren’t sure where to start? Japanese kabocha is a great option. Here’s what you need to know to start growing this delicious variety.
What Is Kabocha Squash?
Kabocha squash, otherwise known as the Japanese pumpkin, is a green winter squash from the Cucurbita maxima family. This Japanese squash originated in Cambodia and was introduced to the island nation by Portuguese explorers.
The squash commonly has a deep green skin with light green or white stripes and raised bumps that give it a slight texture. Other varieties come in blue, red, and even black.
The flesh itself, regardless of variety, is bright orange or yellow.
How to Grow Kabocha Squash
Kabocha squash does best outdoors. It needs room for the vine to spread out and space for the squash to bloom and develop. Since most kabocha squash grows between 2 and 3 pounds, it’s best to let the vine sit flush on the ground.
Typically, the squash grows through the spring and summer months. They reach full size in the fall when they’re ready to harvest.
Each plant should produce 3-5 squash, but larger vines may produce more. You’ll need to space each vine out when planting to give them room to produce without overcrowding.
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The Best Growing Conditions for Kabocha Squash
This squash variety does well in growing zones 2 through 11, making it ideal for most parts of the United States. Click here to find out which zone you’re in.
Ideally, the soil should have a pH of 6.1-7.0 and should be loosely tilled prior to planting. The perfect planting spot will be in full sun and soil temperatures should stay between 70-95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kabocha vines need that soil to stay moist at all times, but not wet. If the soil feels overly dry, water it again.
Step-By-Step Guide for Growing Kabocha Squash
Growing kabocha is a surprisingly easy process, but you will need to start the process in early spring if you want your squash to reach maturity by fall.
1. Start the Seeds
You need to start your seeds inside your house a month before the final freeze of the year. Use peat pellets so you can transfer the seeds straight into the soil without stressing the roots.
2. Find the Right Spot
Make sure surrounding plants won’t crowd the new vines and choose a location with direct sunlight and proper drainage. Puddles of water can lead to root rot and kill your vines before they have a chance to produce any squash.
3. Plant Your Sprouted Seeds
Till the soil until it’s loose and fluffy. Then, plant the seedlings with at least four feet of space between each plant. This gives the roots and the vines room to spread out.
4. Water Correctly
Give the soil a good soaking once a week and let it rest in between. Check every few days to make sure the soil is still moist.
5. Watch for Pests
Squash bugs are the most common threat to kabocha vines. They drink the plant’s sap and cause the leaves and vines to wilt. Look for brown/black oblong beetle-like creatures crawling on the leaves and beneath the vines.
If you find bugs, remove them from the vine by hand and squish them. Check the leaves for eggs and scrape them off.
6. Harvest the Squash
Kabocha squash grows into early fall. Harvest when the skin turns a duller green and the stems harden and brown. Cut the stem with your pruning shears, leaving at least 2 inches of stem attached to the squash.
Let the squash cure in a sunny spot for about 10 days. Once cured, store the squash in a cool dark area inside the house. It should last for 4-5 months uncooked.
Common Uses for Kabocha Squash
Kabocha is almost exclusively used for food. The squash has a sweet flavor reminiscent of sweet potato more so than pumpkin, making it ideal for both sweet and savory dishes. The entire squash is edible and the skin crisps up nicely when cooked.
To prepare the squash, wash any remaining dirt off the exterior and cut it in half with a sturdy kitchen knife. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and loose fibers in the middle of the squash.
Set the seeds aside to roast for a delicious treat or save a few for the next year’s planting season.
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Though most people grow them for food, you can use them to decorate in the fall without damaging the squash. Set them on the dining table with a few miniature pumpkins for a festive centerpiece.
Kabocha Squash Images
Kabocha has a very distinct look that sets it apart from other members of the squash family.
Look at That Green Color!
Kabocha squash is squat, green, and smaller than many other pumpkin varieties. When ripe, the glossy green skin turns a duller greenish brown, like the squash on the right.
It’s Not Just Green…
The skin has lighter streaks of green or white that give it a mottled appearance. But both solid-green and mottled kabocha are perfectly great for eating.
So Many Different Sizes
Kabocha averages 2-3 pounds in size, but some can grow much larger.
Discoloration Is Natural
Discoloration on the skin doesn’t mean the kabocha is bad—it just means it grew in different conditions.
They’re the Perfect Dinner Option
When cooked, the yellowy orange flesh of the squash turns darker. The entire squash is edible and you don’t have to worry about peeling the skin.
Green Is Just the Beginning
Though most kabocha squashes are green, there are some red varieties available. The flavor, texture, and growing requirements are the same as the green varieties.
Where to Buy Kabocha Squash Seeds
Ready to start growing kabocha yourself? Here’s everything you need to get started.
Each pack contains 25 non-GMO green varietal kabocha seeds specially bred to resist black rot. After starting, your squash should be ready for harvesting in about 95 days.
These packets of 16 seeds are organic, produced without harmful pesticides or GMOs. The seeds produce beautiful red kabocha squash.
If you’re looking for a unique relative to the standard kabocha squash, these Japanese black pumpkin seeds won’t disappoint. The flavor is similar to standard kabocha, but the skin of the pumpkin is a deeper, almost black, green.
Blue kuri squash is a bluer version of standard kabocha squash and these seeds will help you add color to your garden.
Bring a Bit of Japan to Your Garden
If you’re looking for a versatile alternative to standard pumpkin varieties, kabocha squash is an absolute must. The lightly sweet flavor works in countless recipes and the plant itself is easy to grow in almost all gardens.
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