Gourd Intentions

Squash your dinner plans with these new varieties

Autumn's iconic vegetables star on front porches and in festive centerpieces, but there's more to the noble squash than decoration. These three lesser-known varieties can add new flavor–and character–to dinner.

Sweet Dumpling Dainty and round, this aptly named green-speckled squash has a golden-orange core. The tiny gourds (pictured) are perfect for stuffing, but best showcased when cooked low and slow, or puréed and served simply with butter and salt. Blue Duck Tavern's Brian McBride often pairs the mellow sweetness with seafood, including filling it with shrimp and grits.

Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash Named for one of the gardeners whose seed-saving preserved it, this teardrop-shaped heirloom variety has a rich, caramel-color skin. Similar to acorn squash, its tough, hard-to-peel skin protects the creamy flesh within. The subtly sweet, slightly nutty flavor is best showcased by roasting.

Kabocha This squash's dark green shell–which is nutrient-rich and edible–holds a brilliant orange core. With a flavor similar to a sweet potato, the nutty, earthy flesh mingles well with salty, savory foods. Natural Foods chef Rachel Brumitt serves it with coconut, lemongrass and chiles (click here for the recipe).