Mao Qua Edible Gourd
(Benincasa hispida var. chieh-qua); aka Mokwa, Fuzzy Gourd, Hairy Gourd; open-pollinated*
Mao Qua, popular in Asian, South American, and Caribbean cuisine, is similar in use to zucchini. Softly fuzzed fruits are sweet and juicy, best used when between 6 - 8 inches in length. If allowed to mature on the vine, fruits make a juicy winter melon that stores fairly well. If going the stored route, after harvest, wipe the outside of the melon with vinegar and store in a dry, warm, well-ventilated location.
Why add Mao Qua to your garden? Being a member of a different botanical group from the typically grown squash family members, it is an easy way to increase your garden's resilience against Mother Nature's challenges. Mao Qua offers culinary diversity - it is great in stir fries, soups, stews, and even halved, stuffed, & baked. And that it doesn't cross-pollinate with the commonly grown squashes in your garden makes adding its seeds to your personal seed-stock even easier.
*note: I only grew one species of Benincasa this season so I did not hand-pollinate Mao Qua. That its flowers require a pollinator, there is an extremely small chance of cross-pollination if a neighbor happened to grow a different variety (which I highly doubt!)