The fruit of any of several tropical vines of the gourd family. Also called the “loofah,” “rag gourd,” and “vegetable sponge.” The dried insides of these gourds can be used as a sponge.
You can grow your own absorbent sponge to use in the bath or as a dishcloth. The young fruits, flowers and leaves can be eaten as a vegetable. It is the ornamental gourd LOOFAH or LUFFA, known also as the ‘vegetable sponge’ or the ‘dishcloth gourd’…
Loofah is a fast-growing, long-season, warm-climate vine plant that can climb up to 15 feet high.The Loofah plant itself is similiar to a cucumber and produces sprawling vines up to 15 to 20 feet in length.
Any of seven species of annual climbing vines constituting the genus Luffa, of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae).
There are other gourds, such as the Chinese watermelon, or wax gourd (Benincasa hispida), teasel gourd (Cucumis dipsaceus), snake gourd (Trichosanthes anguina), and dishcloth gourd and sponge gourd (species of the genus Luffa).
A native of the Asian tropics, loofah is found throughout warm tropical, sup-tropical and temperate areas.
The Loofah is a quick growing annual curcubit. Give it a trellis or something to climb on. Plant seed after all danger of frost is past and the soil is warm in hills 3 feet apart in rows at least 4 feet apart.
Cultural requirements are the same as for other members of the cucurbit family. Fruit for consumption as a vegetable is ready to harvest in about 100 days. Harvest when 6 to 8 inches in length and still tender. Allow another 30 days for the fruit to fully mature if it is to be used as a gourd or as a dishcloth.
A sturdy plant which is easily grown, even in poor soils. Loofah does not tolerate sustained temperatures below 18°C. Relatively resistant to mildew. The seeds remain viable for several years when stored under dry conditions. Plants are vigorous growing vines related to melons and squash, and are grown in the same way. Plants are more productive when trained on a trellis and can produce 10 to 20 fruit per plant.
The fibrous material inside the ripe fruit is dried to make a cloth-like sponge.
Has a large yellow edible flower. Female flowers are moderate to good nectar suppliers, male blooms yield a good pollen value. The loofah’s profuse and continuous blossoming during rainy periods provides excellent bee colony build-up and maintenance forage. Recommended for planting to increase honey production.
The mature seeds, young flowers and young leaves of the Loofah are also edible.
Sliced fruit (less than 10cm / 6inches long) goes well cooked with egg in a stir-fry, soups, quiche etc. The ridged Loofah is considered the tastiest of all, as the common and other varieties occasionally develop a bitter taste. Tender loofah fruits can be added raw to salads or cut up in soups in the same way as okra. The real gastronomie utility for this vegetable lies in its ability to substitute for zucchini or squash, or for egg plant in parmigiana. In Japan, one of the world’s biggest producers and consumers, the fruit is sliced and sun-dried. In India the gourds are popular in curries, while Malaysians relish the young leaves, raw, and the Annamese people of China like to eat the male flowers and flower buds, The blooms can be dipped and sauteed. Jams and jellies are prepared with the flowers.
The tasty vegetable, may be prepared similiar to okra or zucchini. Can also be sliced and utilized raw like a cucumber.
When preparing, the ridges can be thinly peeled, but the remaining skin can be eaten.
Since the meat of this squash is very absorbant, it takes on the flavours of other ingredients as it cooks. As a very small and young squash, it is sliced into round pieces and used as an ingredient for soups, stews and rice dishes. Larger sized squash are most often served as a vegetable dish or cut into smaller pieces for stir-fried dishes.
A good quality oil can be extracted from the seeds to be used in the manufacture of cosmetics and medicines.
It is reputed to be a blood cleanser and good for the kidneys, to benefit the liver, lungs, heart and stomach; having a cooling effect on the body; also used for migraines, lumbago, bronchitis and uterine bleeding.
This versatile plant has served for hundreds of years as a healing agent. Loofah seeds are emetic and purgative, and the leaves are used by the Chinese in a treatment for skin diseases. In Japan a preparation made from loofah is sold as a skin softener. According to a sixteenth century Chinese herbalist, “The fresh fruit is considered to be cooling and beneficial to the intestines”.
Drying – pick when the fruit starts to turn yellow. Take off the skin and shake out the seeds, soaking the sponge in clean water for one night.
Dry in the sun the following day and you have your sponge.
This spongelike product is used for bathing, for washing dishes, and as an industrial fibre. Loofah offers a renewable altemative to the endangered sea sponge.
Loofah gourds can also be processed into pot holders, doormats, gloves, sandals, caps, hats, waistcoats, stuffing for mattresses and saddles and have many other uses. Loofah readily takes dyes and can be embroidered for the crafting of decorated bags, place mats and garments.