A Veggie or a Tool?
Are you looking for something new to plant in your garden this year, something that you can eat and use as a tool too? Well look no further than the Luffa plant!
A couple years ago, while shopping a seed catalog, I came across this plant and thought…”interesting”, so I gave them a try. What caught my eye was that these gourds are what are used to make bath luffas. I wasn’t sure how it all worked but it really couldn’t have gone better or easier.
I planted these in my garden box the second week of May (I live in zone 5). Each plant takes 2 square feet of space and I grow my vines on a vertical trellis. These took off…seriously! The flowers are pretty and the gourds can get up to 2 feet. These gourds are edible and are best eaten cucumber size, however, if you want lots of luffas, allow them to continue to grow through summer and into the first frost.
I allowed my gourds to sit on my vine until somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I then cut them and allowed them to dry out on my covered front porch. These gourds are heavy on the vine and aren’t ready to turn into luffas until they are light as a feather when picked up. I honestly forgot about mine and they sat out there all winter and into spring. I wasn’t sure they would work but once I started working with them, I realized they would.
To get the luffa out the first thing you do is bang them around a bit, what you are doing is loosening the seeds. Transfer to the sink, allow them to soak for a few minutes and then start breaking off the skin. Once the skin is off you will want to soak the sponges and wash them thoroughly to make sure that there are no flesh fibers left. At this point check again for left over seeds and once they are “clean” soak in a bleach solution for a bit, use the least amount of bleach possible, but what this does is not only sterilize, it also removes 99% of the stains, which might not matter to you but if these are to be gifts, it might matter. Rinse well and allow to dry. Here are a few pics…
The Luffa gourd is a native of the Asian tropics, is commonly called luffa, but is also known as Chinese loofah, vegetable sponge, and dishcloth gourd. Like I mentioned, this plant is edible and even the flowers are sauteed in certain cultures. If picked at only a couple inches long they are great in salads and if left until cucumber size they are used like zucchini, however, do not attempt to eat the bigger fruit, they are too fibrous and are bitter once bigger.
This plant is versatile, it can be eaten several ways, it grows beautiful flowers, grows easily and can be used as a homemade bath or cleaning tool, which can be sold at farmer’s markets and made into soaps. I grew these 2 years ago and I still have some, even after giving my mother in law a couple. All in all, I would say that they make a great addition to any garden, at the very least every few years! Happy gardening!
Bet + Fam 🙂