Shishigatani Pumpkin (aka Hyoutan-Nankin)
Shishigatani Pumpkin is one of several vegetables introduced to Japan during the early Edo Period (~1804). These vegetables became part of a religious and culinary fabric of the Kyoto region and they are referred to as “kyo yasai.”
Shishigatani is an area north of Kyoto which until the 20th century was a combination of forests and agriculture. The name “Shishigatani” means “deer path” and is linked to an ancient story of a priest who became lost in the forest but was rescued by a deer who showed him a path back to a temple.
Like many other Japanese vegetables Shishigatani Pumpkins play other roles than that of food. It was used as an ornamental object and as medicine. It was believed to prevent summer paralysis (polio) if eaten in the mid-summer. A festival in Japan that celebrates its medicinal use continues to this day.
Shishigatani Pumpkin has a very unusual gourd-like shape with a deep green color. Its surface is with irregular bumps. Its flesh tastes moderately sweet and it has a rich mouth feel akin to a sweet potato.
Shishigatani Pumpkins are rare outside of Japan. Only two seed sources can be found in the United States and each claim to be the sole source for Shishigatani.
This Shishigatani Pumpkin was organically grown in my garden in the Valley of the Moon.
Seed source: Kitazawa Seed Co. http://www.kitazawaseed.com
Vegetables of Interest 2007