Luffa Sponges from Luffa Gourd
This year, I decided to try to grow my own Luffa sponges. The Luffa gourd is in the same family as the cucumber – it generates very long vines and is easy to grow. Although I started the vines on a small trellis in a raised bed, over time those vines grew to the point that they over grew the trellis and poured into the space outside the bed.
Although it took a bit of time (about six weeks) for the first fruit to begin to appear, it was well worth the wait! The cucumber shaped fruit continuously elongate (additional growth can be seen on a day-to-day basis).
The first Luffa produced was allowed to remain on the vine until he began to turn brown, and was then harvested and processed. First, the thin skin was pulled away from the plant matrix – the part that looks like what we call a Luffa sponge. The sponge part was then allowed to dry, and as it dried the dark seeds became visible through the structure. As the sponge dried, the parts that connected seeds to the matrix also dried, and the seats were easily shaken out of the sponge.
There are a couple uses that I found for the Luffa sponges – they can be used for gentle skin exfoliation and the small, tender ones can be cooked like squash and eaten (the flesh has a mild taste while the skin has a slight bitter taste). One difference I’ve noticed is that the store bought luffas tend to be more rigid whereas the homegrown are flexible and much softer and less “scratchy” on the skin (I’m starting to wonder if the one that I bought at the store was either treated with a preservative, or if it is actually synthetic).
The Luffa sponge is another successful new plant grown in my gardens in 2017!