The Kalabasa squash or spelled ‘Calabaza’ vegetable, is a Spanish generic term for the winter squash, in English this is called ‘West Indian Pumpkin’. A tropical vegetable similar to a pumpkin, it has a beautiful bright orange hue, when cooked it turns soft and tender, giving off a mildly sweet, and warm taste. This pretty looking squash has more to give than its interesting looks and delicate taste, check out the article to know more.
A short Introduction
Kalabasa in English ‘Pumpkin’ (scientific name Cucurbita moschata) is a name used for the most common squash varieties in the Philippines. Being in the same species with hard squashes and butternut squashes. Cultivated primarily in Central and South America and in the Caribbean. There are a hundred different types of squashes around the world, with different names depending on the country. This vegetable is found in the West Indies, the Philippines, and tropical parts of America. Grown as ‘monoecious’, meaning that it has both female and male organs, interlocking vines that can grow to 50 feet. Though there are some squashes that are grown in bushes. Both types yield between two to fifteen, with the bush-type yielding more.
It’s distinguishable characteristics are it’s rounded horizontally or vertically, in a pumpkin-like shape, growing to a size similar to a cantaloupe or as big as a watermelon, visually having a bright orange or dark green, sometimes mottled with green spots or patches rind, the rind’s thickness depends on how matured it is, the younger squash has thinner and softer rinds that can be easily consumed, but the matured older squashes needs to have the rinds peeled with a peeler or knife. Once you take a slice, you’ll find a bright orange, or in some cases, bright yellow flesh with larger seeds in the middle, the seeds are taken out and thrown away, sometimes kept to be dried or toasted and eaten after.
Cooked steamed to really showcase its soft and tender, sweet flavor, or sautéed with aromatics to make it more suitable for savory dishes, even added or pureed to turn into soup or stews to add color and creaminess into the dish, some add them into baked goods like cakes, cupcakes, pies, or candies, and even mixed in into snacks like empanadas, pupusas, quesadillas, and many more.
How much are Kalabasa calories? One serving or around 2,000 calories of this delightful orange squash, meets just 2% of the daily calorie needs. Making this a low-calorie food that can be eaten by those who are on a diet, but still want to fill full. A big volume, with low calories, but making a big impact on the body by supplying it with the vitamins, iron, calcium, other nutrients, and minerals that you need. Here are a list of what the flavorful, delicate, and healthy Kalabasa can provide to the body:
- Rich in Vitamin A and beta-carotene that boosts your immunity, protects your eyesight from problems like cataracts, and age related eye problems.
- Has a good amount of Vitamin C that gets the cells working to heal wounds faster.
- Reduces risk of Chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Being high in antioxidants that protects the cells and destroys harmful bacteria.
- Great for weight loss, being a nutrient-dense food that is low in calories, but packed with fiber and nutrients which keeps the stomach feeling fuller for longer.
- Being a vegetable that contains Vitamin C, Potassium, and fiber. It helps improve blood pressure and heart health.
- Antioxidants in this vegetable also promote healthy skin, slowing signs of aging like wrinkles. These also act as a natural sunblock and tells the body to produce more collagen.
The Sweet Filipino Pumpkin
The Filipino Kalabasa plant is grown throughout the year in the Philippines. Usually at home gardens in the province, or in the farm for commercialized production. It is said that all parts of the vegetable from the flower and seeds can be cooked and eaten. While it is popularly found in the grocery and dry markets sold whole, these can also be found sold already halved or pre-cut, or packed in a bag with other sliced vegetables for pinakbet.
Cooking with squash is simple, this seemingly humble ingredient that can be used in so many ways, Here are some common Filipino Kalabasa recipes :
- Creamy Kalabasa soup, an easy healthy squash recipe. Delicious rich tasting vibrant soup made by blending a mix of kalabasa, vegetables like carrots, aromatics, butter, cream, and broth to keep you feeling cozy.
- Ginisang kalabasa with noodles, made with a few ingredients easily found in the cupboard. Noodles, garlic, onion, malunggay leaves and the kalabasa, simmered together to make a hearty soup. You can also make a simple ginisang kalabasa at talong(eggplant) or ginisang kalabasa at baboy (pork), ginisang kalabasa with sotanghon recipe, ginisang kalabasa with sardines, by leaving the noodles behind.
- Suman Balinghoy with Kalabasa, a sweeter pumpkin take on the traditional suman. A Filipino dish to try if you prefer a healthy filling snack.
- Ginataang kalabasa recipe, a warm toasty nutty stew made with coconut cream or milk, simmered with a number of vegetables, the kalabasa gives it its appealing pastel orange color, you can eat it as is without meat. Other versions include, ginataang kalabasa with pork, ginataang kalabasa at sitaw with pork, and ginataang alimasag with kalabasa.
- Ukoy kalabasa or Okoy kalabasa, basically crispy squash fritters that are just beautifully crunchy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside.
- Biko Kalabasa kapampangan, a Filipino delicacy that is made of glutinous rice, squash, coconut milk, with or without sugar for added sweetness. A delightful colorful afternoon snack.