Used more in tabletop decorations than in cooking recipes, Turk’s Turban, also known as Turk’s Cap, is a unique winter squash with a wonderful taste. The bright red, yellow and green colors of Turk’s Turban do add a splash of color to a Fall centerpiece, which makes it a favorite in ornamental displays. Another reason why Turk’s Turban is often artfully arranged in a bowl, basket or some other vessel alongside gourds, is that most people do not realize this is not a gourd but an edible squash that can be prepared many different ways.
Turk’s Turban is an heirloom squash originating in France sometime during the early 1800’s. Its name comes from its shape, which resembles turbans worn by men of the Middle East. The fruit, which is approximately eight to ten inches round, bears shades of red, orange, white, yellow and green. The top of the squash contains stripes while the bottom of the squash is a solid color red with flicks of smaller stripes of white, yellow or orange.
Planting Turk’s Turban
Although Turk’s Turban grows best in zones 10 through 12, it can successfully be grown in shorter season climates. Seeds should be sown directly in the ground after all danger of frost has passed and the ground temperature remains above freezing. Note that seeds can be started indoors three to four weeks before moving to the garden; just make sure the soil is kept warm and moist. Seeds can be planted in hill or rows three to four feet apart, and should be covered with one-half to three-fourth inches of rich organic soil. Turk’s Turban loves the sun so plant it where it can get lots of it. Seedlings begin to show after five days and it takes 157 days for the plants and fruit to mature (less time in warmer zones).
Growing Turk’s Turban
When seedlings reach approximately five inches, thin out the less dominant ones to where there are three seedlings per hill. Do the same if planting in rows. As the plant grows and the vines reach out to other areas of the garden, it will take root at the leaf nodes. Do not overwater and use high nitrogen fertilizer throughout the summer. If you live in a dry area with little rain, consider using mulch to help the soil retain some moisture. Mulching will also help to keep weeds down. The fruit will ripen with the ‘hat’ top on the bottom and gardeners delight in watching the fruit change its color as it grows.
Harvesting and Cooking Turk’s Turban
The two to three pound squash will be ready for harvest around mid autumn and all fruit should be removed from the vines before the first frost. Turk’s Turban will last for several weeks if stored properly in an area with a temperature between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turk’s Turban is great roasted on the grill or baked in the over, added to soups and stews, and steamed with other vegetables, especially mushrooms.
Sources: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Personal Experience