Stouffville grower squashes the competition at the Royal Winter Fair

It’s as big as a truck tire and weighs just as much as an 11-year-old child. At just over 86 pounds, Steve Hoult’s squash, more specifically known as a Turks Turban, took home the title of this year’s world’s largest vegetable on Nov. 2 at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

The turks turban took home top honours in the category of “any other vegetable of competitive merit” after being judged amongst five other vegetables in the same category.

Ironically, Hoult did not grow up on a farm. He grew up in Toronto and was initially employed in the industrial sector. He and his family eventually moved to Stouffville, Ont., and have been growing fruits and vegetables on the family farm ever since.

“I’ve always liked growing vegetables,” Hoult said. “I really like squash because it’s so beautiful and ornamental.”

Hoult said the average weight of a Turks Turban is between three and 10 pounds. Hoult has been growing and perfecting his turks turbans for the past 10 years, which explains how this one came in at a whopping 86 pounds.

“I started growing this one back in May of this year knowing I would enter it into the competition,” he said. “It grew to its full size at the end of September.”

Hoult gives credit to his former farm neighbour, Norm Craven, for inspiring him to enter the horticultural competition at the fair eight years ago.

“Norm got me involved in the Royal,” Hoult said. “He was growing giant vegetables and was in the Royal even before I was. He was the one who helped me obtain good seeds and got me started growing my own giant vegetables. He was my mentor.”

Even today, Hoult and Craven still share ideas about growing giant vegetables.

Craven has been growing giant vegetables for the past 16 years and has been entering into the Royal Winter Fair’s horticultural competition every year.

“It’s a great hobby,” Craven said. “You can accomplish things you’ve never thought you could before and you’re always trying to improve your vegetables.”

No one knows this better than Hoult.

“It gets in your blood,” he said. “You’re almost tied to your vegetables because you tend to them every day. Every year I would save the seeds of my largest vegetable to ensure the best genetics for the next year.”

Hoult’s winning squash will also be sent to the Guinness World Records office, to see if Hoult’s vegetable also merits the Guinness title.

And according to Hoult, the secret to growing the world’s largest vegetable is simple. “If you want to grow a giant vegetable,” Hoult said, “you need to pretend you’re the vegetable and ask yourself, ‘what would I need to grow bigger?’”