EFN INTRODUCTION. NEW. Technically a "winter squash", it's unlikely this squash will actually ever make it to winter. It is not a long keeper — if not harvested at peak ripeness, they are liable to start rotting in the field, especially if they ripen during a wet time of year. But that doesn't mean it's not a wonderful squash. When picked at peak ripeness, the flesh is mild and tasty, good for soups, curries, gnocchi, or stir-fry. We expect it was traditionally preserved, possibly by drying, but most likely candying (candied squash is quite a treat!). We also really enjoyed the young fruits as a summer squash — round and tasty, with good flesh texture and a nice color (see photo). They definitely work well as a big round pale-green zucchini. The mature fruit, a pale bluish-grey, is quite beautiful. They range in size from about 5 to 15 pounds.
This squash was collected in the 1980s by the Syrian Agriculture Research Directorate at a site about 30 kilometers west of the city of Raqqa, in Raqqa Province. It was then passed to the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) in Rome, who passed it to the USDA, from whom we requested it a few years ago.
Raqqa is most well-known today for being the "capital" of the so-called Islamic State from 2014-2017, and for having been largely destroyed in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. But the city has a long and rich history, dating back to at least Bronze Age Babylon, when the city of Tuttul was located in the region. Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines controlled the city for various periods, and it was taken over by Arab Muslim General Iyad ibn Ghanm (a companion of the prophet Muhammad) in the early days of Islam, around the year 640. Christians and Jews retained freedom of worship there, and appear in the historical record to at least the 1200s, when Raqqa was destroyed by Mongol invaders. Bedouins and Ottomans later ruled the region. Kurds in the 19th century and Armenians in the early 20th notably found sanctuary there, fleeing persecution and genocide.
We grow plants like this to be able to tell stories like these — so Americans might get to know Raqqa not for the atrocities committed there, but for its history, humanity, and culture, one manifestation of which is this delicious squash, which carries with it the strength & resilience of the people who developed it across generations.