Kalabasa / Winter Squash

I first encountered these small dense squashes or kalabasa at Farmers Market in Cubao. sq1The vendor told me they were from Korean seeds and that the difference between these and our more commonly available kalabasa was a thinner skin, thicker or denser meat, and sweeter to boot. I wasn’t sure if she was just pulling my leg but I bought a couple of squashes anyway and took them home to try. I have searched several sources and have been unable to find the name of this specific type of squash (anyone who knows more please email me), but I can tell you that I like them more than the more common locally grown kalabasa. I find that the local kalabasa is great in many dishes but for more western type preparations such as baked squash or squash ravioli, a denser less watery meat is needed.

Kalabasa is just a filipinized version of the Spanish Calabaza which literally means squash. There are dozens of types of squashes but these fall into the winter squash category that typically have thick skins, orange meats and store well for a long period of time. They have nothing to do with growing in the winter. In fact, in the tropics, they grow all year round. This kalabasa, probably a Cucurbita moschata, is probably related to butternut squashes and even pumpkins which are closer relatives than say the summer squashes such as zucchini. Kalabasa is a very reasonably priced yet highly nutritious and versatile vegetable. It can be used in soups, sautéed, baked, in desserts, etc. Incidentally, the American word squash is derived from a Northeastern Indian (feather not dot) word askutasquash meaning to be “eaten raw” according to the Oxford Companion to Food.

This squash is just the right size for a large dish without having a large sq3leftover portion as what normally happens with a local kalabasa. The skin is in fact very thin and much of the weight of the fruit is edible. There appears to be less air in the center of the squash (possibly due to its lack of maturity?) but the meat is intensely orange and delicious. I like to cut these in half and bake them at a high temperature with butter and some brown sugar in the cavity. They also make a delicious side dish when thin slices are brushed with a soy based glaze and grilled on an open flame. I imagine they would be good in ravioli and tempura even. I noticed them in at least two other markets in the past few weeks so they are becoming more widely available. They are more expensive than the more common kalabasa but the difference is not significant given the low cost of squash overall.


11 Responses

  1. Try roasting them in the oven (in cubes) and drizzle with a good balsamic vinegar and any fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary) Wonderful!!!!

  2. Yahoo!Please do continue with your good work, nay great work!!!!
    People say you are crazy doing this for the love of it???
    why not? I guess they are saying why can’t I do that
    myself:Doing something I love gratis !without monetary
    gratifications but just pure fun and joy and fulfillment??

    Carry on please!!!!God bless your days!!!!

  3. I’m definitely gonna look for those squash next time at Cubao’s Farmers Market. The way you described it, its taste and texture is probably a cross between butternut and … (shoot! i can’t remember the name of it, but it’s rounder and smaller and has a very thick dark green skin). What I do is cut ’em in bite-size pieces and either steam or boil ’em very little water just so it’ll get soft enough that i can mush it up. Then I put butter and brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon. Very good side dish, but I eat it just as it is most of the time for lunch or supper.

  4. If you are really interested about squash, there was an article last month in Agriculture Magazine about it.

  5. Hi MarketMan!: Please please make time to post a nice pumpkin soup dish for my grandmother who is not eating too well anymore. Feel free to E-mail me any ideas you have. I have tried making soup with some onion leeks and garlic mixed in. I was an extremely avid example of how NOT TO MAKE pumpkin soup… looking forward to hearing from you and more power to your wonderful Blog….



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