Garden of Eatin' / Vegetables

Turk’s Turban Winter Squash

Turk's Turban winter squash

Remember the Three Sisters Garden? It’s been going strong since spring, and this week, the first of those plants are starting to peter out… The corn’s been picked, the beans are seeding, and the squash are firming up their winter coats for storage.

With our warm weather this season, my winter squash have all matured earlier than usual. First week of July and they’re already done, leaving the kitchen all Thanksgiving-looking with thick-skinned orange, yellow, and green gourds piled on the counter.

In the garden, I repeat a lot of my favorite crops every summer (the tried-and-true varieties like Dragon Tongue bush beans and Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers), but I always grow a few new types of winter squash. I haven’t repeated a winter squash yet in four years. They’re easy to grow, hardy in our climate, and interesting to look at (and by interesting, I mostly mean bizarre if you look at my history of winter squash selections).

This year, the title of “Most Bizarre” goes to these gorgeous Turk’s Turban squash.

Turk's Cap squash

Turk's Turban of Cucurbita maxima

Also called Turk’s Cap, Aladdin’s Turban, and Mexican Hat (I actually see the resemblance in all that, except for the Mexican hat), Turk’s Turban (Cucurbita maxima) is a buttercup type squash. It’s squat and bulbous, with a reddish orange cap and a green- and cream-streaked base. Some bases are more pronounced in pattern than others, even if the squash are from the same plant, as you can see from my harvest.

Cucurbita maxima

Mexican Hat squash

My Turk’s Turbans each grew to about 7 pounds and 10 inches in diameter with a few scars and warts characteristic of winter squash. (As anyone who has followed my blog for some time knows, I’m a sucker for imperfection.)

Turk's Turban squash base

Aladdin's Turban squash

Striated base on Turk's Turban squash

Turk's Cap

Streaks and warts on Turk's Cap heirloom squash

Despite its various monikers conjuring visions of the Sahara (or a tourist bar in Tijuana), this heirloom variety actually hails from pre-1820s France. It looks like it should be a purely decorative gourd, but Turk’s Turban is definitely edible and said to be moist and mildly sweet, and ideal for stuffing and roasting.

I haven’t cut into my squash yet, but seeing as it should keep all summer and fall, I’m excited about the possibilities… perhaps a roasted squash soup served in its rind as a tureen? Or some crumbled sausage and herb-scented rice stuffed into its bowl-shaped cap? I’ll let you know in a few months!

Mexican Hat squash is ideal for stuffing and roasting

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


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