Wait…. what?? I thought it came from the ocean.
Nope. Luffa is in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae, also called cucurbits) and grows similarly to a winter squash. If harvested young, it tastes like a summer squash, and if left on the vine to mature it can be used in the bathtub. Go figure.
What Is Luffa Plant?
Luffa, also known as loofah, vegetable sponge, or dishcloth gourd are often grown for the fibrous flesh of the mature luffa gourd. These gourds can grow to 2 feet long and 7 inches in diameter. If you want to eat the luffa, it is best harvested when less than 6 inches long. Young luffa is delicious in stir-fry and tastes similar to a summer squash.
Where Does Luffa Grow?
Growing luffa takes a lot of time and patience. Luffa needs from 150 to 200 or more frost-free warm days. Luffa requires plenty of sun, warmth, consistent water, and a large trellis. Not all climates have a sufficiently long (and warm) growing season to grow luffa successfully. In USDA Zones 7 and higher, luffa seeds can be started outdoors. Zone 6 growers should start seeds indoors. It is not recommended for zones below Zone 6.
How to Grow Luffa Plants
Plant luffa seeds in full sun with rich soil as soon as any danger of frost has passed. The seeds may take up to 14 days to germinate. The young vines are susceptible to weeds and pests. Luffa produces a vigorous vine long before it produces first male flowers, and then finally female flowers, so be patient! A large vine is necessary to support large gourds. Allow luffa to mature on the vine to produce the maximum amount of fibrous flesh. The gourds do not tolerate freezing and should be removed from the vine immediately after the first frost or they will rot.
How to Harvest Luffa
If you are growing for the luffa “sponge”, leave the gourd on the plant until it feels lightweight and the skin begins to shrivel and turn yellow. It’s best to peel it at this stage, when the skin is easily removed. Cut the luffa from the vine and cut off one end, and shake out seeds. (Save the seeds from your largest luffa to share and plant next season.) Cut off the other end, roll the luffa on a table to loosen skin, rip skin apart at seam, and remove all skin. Let luffa dry completely in the sun before storing to prevent mold.
How to Use Luffas
Use a luffa sponge in the shower, kitchen, or scrubbing around the house. When using a luffa, let it dry completely between uses to prevent bacteria build up. Use a luffa sponge for 3-4 weeks and then toss it into the compost bin. Luffa can be stored for several years if kept dry and dust free. It’s best stored in a box or cloth bag.
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About the Author:
Angela Judd is an avid vegetable, flower and fruit tree gardener. A mother of five children, she enjoys growing and preparing food from the garden for her family. She is a certified Master Gardener. She shares inspiration and tips to help home gardeners successfully grow their own garden on growinginthegarden.com. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.