Precy loves to write about many topics, including Filipino dishes, culture, legends and traditions.
Edible Fruits, Flowers, Leaves, and Stems
Every spring, as our jujube tree awakens from its winter slumber, spinach seedlings, watercress, and New Zealand spinach are all showing up almost everywhere, in every pot and container just like the previous years.
Another volunteer plant that our family looks forward to every year is the kabocha squash (Cucurbita maxima). The fruit of this type of Japanese winter squash is commonly seen sold, but if you have the kabocha squash in your garden, don't waste the flowers, young leaves, or stems. They're all edible too!
Read on and enjoy the photos of this healthy, easy-to-grow vegetable that I grew myself from seedlings.
Germinating Kabocha Squash Seeds
Growing the plant from seeds is quite easy. So when it comes down to choosing how to germinate kabocha squash, both directly planting them in the ground or wrapping the seeds in a damp paper towel and waiting for them to germinate work equally.
Though both ways work well, I prefer the latter since I get to see the gradual improvement by taking little peeks on the seeds with the damp paper towel method.
How to Germinate Kabocha Seeds With a Damp Paper Towel
- Wet a paper towel and squeeze out the excess water.
- Wrap the seeds and set them aside, either somewhere in your kitchen or outside in a shady spot. Don't forget to keep the paper towel damp. You can also have the paper towel in a see-through container with a cover. This will help keep the paper towel moist. With this, you can unwrap the seeds and just lay them on the damp paper towel. You'll be able to monitor easily once the seeds start to germinate.
- Once the seeds start to germinate, plant them either directly in the ground or, if you have a limited space, in a container or pot once the weather warms up. You can also start the seeds in seed starting pots indoors and place them where they could get about six hours of sun a day. I suggest using peat pots or paper cups if you already have some available at home: cut the bottom and just leave about an an inch of space, which you can easily remove when you're ready to plant your seedlings.
Other Names for Kabocha Squash
Harvesting the Male Flowers
Young kabocha flowers start as green buds that turn yellow as they develop, in long stalks with soft, needle-like hairs. The flowers only last for a day though, so don't forget to harvest the male flowers before the day ends. Otherwise, the flowers will wither.
Yes, you read that right. Kabocha has male and female flowers and it is the male flowers that are harvested for consumption (refer to the photos below). You'll see developing young fruit at the end of the stem below the base of the female flower.
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The tiny, needle-like hairs disappear as the kabocha blossom matures. While the male blossoms are often harvested for consumption, they are also used to hand pollinate the female blossoms.
Preparation of Stems, Flowers, and Leaves Prior to Cooking
Similar to the young blossoms, the young kabocha squash leaves also have the seemingly transparent, needle-like tiny hairs that appear on the stems and tendrils.
It is also at this stage that these parts of the plant are harvested for consumption.
The outer layer of the stem is removed first prior to cooking. By doing so, the stems won't be tough when cutting them into bite-sized pieces. Preparing the stems by hand will also give you a good feel of what part of the stem is already matured and fibrous, as you wouldn't want that in your dish.
Young kabocha squash leaves are preferred in cooking and are only prepared by breaking the leaves into smaller pieces. With the blossoms, only the yellow petals and the stalks are taken and prepared the same way as the stems.
Harvesting the Fruits
The young kabocha squash fruits are greener, while the hard, mature fruits appear to have a lighter shade of green with either white or yellowish stripes and spots.
The fruit is often harvested matured, but with the younger fruits, some prefer to include the skin in cooking.
Consuming Kabocha Squash
The fruit of kabocha squash is widely known and consumed in many dishes. It's either roasted, baked, stuffed, simmered with other veggies, or—my dad's favorite—cooked in coconut milk.
But aside from the sweet nutty fruit, other parts of the plant are edible as well, and these are the flowers and young tops.
Here are a handful of different ways to incorporate different parts of the kabocha squash plant into your cooking:
- Some enjoy their harvest of kabocha flowers dipped in batter and fried.
- Ilocanos also include kabocha squash flowers and tops in dinengdeng, a vegetable dish that often includes bitter melon, okra, and eggplant.
- Some add kabocha blossoms to omelettes.
- When the fruit is cooked in coconut milk, some like to add shredded smoked fish and long beans.
- The young leaves are also included in the Filipino soured dish sinigang—even better with fish instead of meat and with okra, eggplant, and long beans added as well.
- When roasted, kabocha fruit makes a healthy fill. You can also add your favorite herbs as you season it. I love the smell of rosemary.
- The fruit makes a crispy kabocha squash tempura.
- You can also make kabocha squash fritters with the fruit.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.