Most of the kabocha pumpkin grown in Japan today is related to a western variety originally from the western part of South America that was first brought to Japan in the 19th century. Japan kabocha pumpkin and omocha kabocha pumpkin are also related to varieties brought from Portugal in the 16th century that originally were from Central America and the northern part of South America. There is also pepo kabocha pumpkin, which is used primarily for decorative purposes.
In addition to the main variety called ebisu, which when cooked offers a perfect hearty warmth and stickiness, there is also kuriyutaka, which is hot and flaky when cooked, and ajihei DX, which has a high sugar content. Each variety features a different taste, but each have become a staple in Japanese cuisine. Japan has a custom of eating kabocha pumpkin in the winter and the event food called itokoni, which is rice porridge with soybeans and kabocha pumpkin, is well known.
Kabocha pumpkin are mainly growth in the Kamikawa area, with most cultivated in the northern four municipalities of Wassamu Town, Nayoro City, Bifuka Town and Shibetsu Town.
■Map / Main producing municipalities
Wassamu Town, Nayoro City, Bifuka Town, Mukawa City, Shibetsu City, Memuro Town, Furano City, Kamifurano Town, Mori Town, Kenbuchi Town
Hokkaido has the largest yield of kabocha pumpkin than any other part of Japan, accounting for almost half the market. For many years, the annul schedule was for Kanto-grown kabocha pumpkin to hit stores from spring to summer, while that grown in Hokkaido appears in stores from September to October, with imported pumpkins sold thereafter until the next spring.
However, Wassamu Town, known as the town of pumpkins, began growing multiple varieties of pumpkins with different growing periods, which extended the harvest and, through extended storage, made it possible for people in Japan to eat domestically grown kabocha pumpkin until December. This is the successful outcome of producers using trial and error to make it possible to obtain Hokkaido-grown kabocha pumpkin during the winter, which is a customary time to eat it.
Seeds are planted from the middle of May to end of June and raised in a greenhouse until they become seedlings. These seedlings are then planted and harvested between the beginning of September and middle of October. Later, the kabocha pumpkins are shipped after drying and storage. They can be stored for a period of up to around 2 months.