Cucurbita argyrosperma
A vendor holding pipián at a wholesale market in San Salvador, El Salvador in 2010. (Photo by Frank Mangan)

A vendor holding pipián at a wholesale market in San Salvador, El Salvador in 2010. (Photo by Frank Mangan)


Pipián is an inmature cucurbit that is a popular in several parts of Central America and Southern Mexico (Figure 1). This cucurbit used to be called a different species, C. mixta, but it is now known as C. argyrosperma. Like all squashes in the genus Cucurbita, the center of origin of pipián is the tropical Americas, specifically Southern Mexico and Central America. The world pipián is used in Mexico to refer to a sauce made from the seeds of cucurbits. In El Salvador, the word pipián is used to refer to immature fruit of Cucurbita argyrosperma.

The fruit is harvested and used when immature. Farmers will let a certain percentage of the fruit to mature in order to save seed for the next seeding (Figure 2). There are no hybrid varieties of pipián available, so farmers will save their own seed, which can also lead to tremendous variation  in phenotypes produced since this crop is monecious (i.e. each plant has both male and female flowers).

In El Salvador, pipián is used in dishes as a vegetable, including being stuffed into pupusas.

Figure 1. Pipián for sale at La Tiendona, the main terminal market in San Salvador, El Salvador in 2010. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 2. Pipián, left to grow to maturity at CENTA in El Salvador in 2005, to be used as a source of seed. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Pipián grown at the University of Massachusetts Research Farm in S. Deerfield.
Pipián that was imported by air from El Salvador being picked up at the airport in 2010. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Pipián that was imported by air from El Salvador packed in a plastc container sitting on cousa squash, which is commonly used a substitute for pipián, at a market in Chelsea Market in 2010. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Calabacita for sale at a wholesale market in Mexico City in 2010 (Photo by Frank Mangan)


Pipián is a vining crop and needs more space than bush types of cucurbits. Based on trials of pipián at the UMass Research Farm in 2006, it is recommended to plant 2,000 plants per acre. Marketable fruit began to appear four to five weeks after transplanting and plants continued to produce fruit right up to frost. Pipián can also be direct seeded in the Northeastern United States, like any cucurbit; however, one should ensure there is a good germination rate before direct seeding. If the germination rate is low, then transplants would be recommended.  

In 2006, we started to get fruit production four weeks after transplanting (Figure 3) and marketable sizes five weeks after transplanting, which is about 6 inches long (Figure 4). The market did not want pipián fruit that was much bigger than 6 inches long.  It was essential to go through the field daily in order to find fruit that had reached the optimum size and had not exceeded it. This was especially important since the leaves of the pipián plants covered the fruit so they could not be seen without walking through the field. To illustrate this point, traditional sized pipián and larger sizes were brought to a cooperating market in New Bedford Massachusetts in 2006.  The market owner accepted the larger sizes, but marked them down.  The traditional sized pipián sold for $2.49/lbs. while the larger ones sold for $1.69/lbs. (Figure 5).

Another issue that negatively impacted sales of locally-grown pipián was competition from “cousa” types of summer squash (Cucurbita pepo). These Mid-Eastern types of summer squash have a similar texture and flavor to pipián and thus have been accepted as a substitute (Figure 6). In fact, some Central Americans living in Massachusetts rejected pipián varieties from El Salvador for the cousa types, perhaps since they had been living in the United States for so long that they have become accustomed to cousa types. In addition, some market owners were not willing to pay the higher price being charged for pipián, as a specialty item, compared to the lower price for cousa types. 

As a member of the curcurbit family, fertility and pest management strategies will be the same as for pumpkin and squash varieties grown in the Northeast. For information on production and management of pipián, refer to the New England Vegetable Management Guide and click on "pumpkin and squash" under "crops".

Figure 3. Pipián growing at the UMass Research Farm on July 6, 2006. This size is too small for the market. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 4. Pipián harvested on July 17 at the UMass Research Farm. This fruit, which is 6 inches long, is a good size for pipián. The market will accept smaller fruit, but not much larger. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 5. Two different sizes of pipián grown at the UMass Research Farm for sale at a Latino market in New Bedford Mass. in 2008. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 6. On pipián fruit, white with green stripes, grown at the UMass Research Farm in a bin with cousa-type squashes grown by a farmer selling at a farmer’s market in New Bedford, Mass in 2006. (Photo by Frank Mangan)

Seed Sources

Currently there are no known sources of commercially-available seed for pipián. Unless you can find sources, we recommend using cousa-types. There are several coua varieties available, including 'magda', 'Alexandria', 'Lebanese White Bush Marrow Squash"

Post-Harvest and Packing

Pipián should be stored under the same conditions as other cucurbits: 55°-60° F and 50–75% Relative humidity. Table 16: Handling Produce for Higher Quality and Longer Market Life, New England Vegetable Management Guide


Marketing and Pricing

Cousa squash being sold as pipián at a Latino market in Chelsea, Mass. in 2010. (Photo by Frank Mangan)

Nutritional Information

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