LUFFA: Start Growing the Sponge Plant

Family: Cucurbitaceae 

Genus: Luffa 

Common name: Loofah, Sponge Gourd, Egyptian Cucumber, Chinese Okra, Ridged gourd

Luffa is a genus of tropical and subtropical vines in the same family of cucumber, melon, pumpkin,etc. It’s know under several names and varieties, but mainly we  refers to the fruits of the two most common species Luffa Aegyptiaca or Cylindrica, and Luffa Acutangula.  

The first variety is very similar to a big size zucchini. It has an elongated shape and roughly reaches a length of 30 cm. its skin has a light color with evident grooves and a hard consistency. Despite being edible when harvested at his young stage, unripen, its taste is bitter and may not be everyone cup of tea. 

Luffa Acutangula has an even more elongated shape and more accentuated grooves, but the peel has a distinctive darker green color. This variety  is more valuable for its taste, and the higher quality of its fiber. Both plants prefer mild climates where  can grow from seed as a annual plant.

Luffa vines love warm temperatures, need full sun, lot of room to ramble and support to facilitate its vertical growth. Therefore they should be placed in a sunny area of the garden with excellent water drainage. 

Some may want to grow Luffas for making excellent natural sponges, some as a nutritious food, but this versatile fruit has found many uses in the past and even more today; from insolation to shoes insoles and more. Back to the culinary, baby luffas taste pretty much like zucchini, growing will get bitter but equally valuable in nutrients. Young luffas are traditionally stir-fried, breaded and deep-fried. Flowers too can be stuffed and cooked like squash blossoms. As it matures, the inside of the pulp begins to transform and dehydrate, thus becoming a vegetable sponge.  

GROWING TIPS

  • Germination can take up to 2 weeks
  • Before planting, soak the seeds in water overnight to speed up germination
  • Plant few seeds a few inches apart in groups
  • When plants begin to grow, keep just the strongest and healthy one per group
  • Space groups at least 2 feet apart
  • Don’t over water your plants

HEALTHY ASPECT OF EATING LUFFA

In many Asian countries, luffa gourds are appreciated for more than their taste. They’re traditionally considered and eaten to prevent a wide range of health issues. Luffa is said preventing blood sugar imbalances and ease muscle and joint discomfort. Latest studies suggest young luffas contain some unique antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compound.

TURINING LUFFA INTO A SPONGE 

To obtain the vegetable sponge, the harvest must take place at the end of the cycle, when the plant begins to dry out and the skin of the fruit turns brown. At this point, the fruits can be picked and left dry for few days. My advice is to soak in water few hour the dried fruit, the peeling will result easier. Once the peel has been removed, the inside of the fruit must be cleared from seeds and the impurities, and the fruit should be given a good rinse and dried. Keep the numerous seeds so that you can plant next year, or even better, give to some friends of yours, and introduce them to the world of  luffas so that they will also be able to grow their 100% biodegradable natural sponge.

HOW TO USE LUFFA SPONGES 

Luffa is hypoallergenic and ideal for body care, but can serve any purpose. Its gently exfoliating and capacity to absorb and remove oil, as well as its durability, make this amazing sponge ideal for cleaning any surface and dishes

Luffa sponges are stiffed and hard when dry, but become soft when soaked in water, and ideal for the most delicate skin. Using the sponge dried is perfect for an exfoliating and intense massage, removing impurities and deal cells from the skin. The tough, rounded fibers that make up a loofah sponge are great for deeply exfoliating your skin without damaging it. Luffa is extremely hygienic, if rinsed and dried properly between uses, will never molds or develops bacteria. 

VEGAN & PLASTIC FREE

Natural sea sponges are also plastic free, but personally I wish not to scrub my body with something that was a life animal. Perhaps Luffa sponges are the only all-natural, renewable and compostable choice!

 


 

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