The loofah is a very special plant: it is a climbing gourd (practically a pumpkin) that produces a fruit from which we obtain a sponge, very useful both for cleaning the house and for use in the shower.
If we put this harvest in the garden, it will not be so much to eat it, although it is edible in soup, but to obtain natural, ecological and economical sponges. This curious culture is worth trying.
Luffa cylindrica or Luffa aegyptica is a plant of the Cucurbitaceae family, a close relative of zucchini and cucumber, native to Asia and well known and cultivated in the East. This plant has a fruit similar to cucumber, with the peculiarity that when ripening the pulp becomes solid and elastic, a real natural sponge.
climate and soil
Collection and use
Climate and relief
Like squash and zucchini, loofah also requires a lot of organic matter: it is a plant that grows a lot and produces large fruits, so it is logical to expect it to be demanding on the soil, care must therefore be taken to prepare a good basic fertilization. As a climate, it does not like cold weather and prefers sunny positions.
How and when to sow loofah . It is sown in early spring (March, April, May), it is best to place three seeds on a small post, 2 cm deep, then choose the plant that grows the strongest. Alternatively, you can sow in jars (or buy the seedling from a nursery) and transplant between mid-April and May. If before sowing, let the seeds soak for 12 hours to facilitate germination.
Sixth floor . Loofah plants are picky, don’t put them too close together or they will steal nutrients. We recommend keeping a minimum distance of 50 cm between plants, normally do not make more than one row, because it is not a very consumed vegetable, but if you want a large number of sponges, make rows spaced at least 120 cm apart. .
Where to find the seeds . Luffa is an original culture, but quite fashionable, it is not excluded that seeds can be found in an agricultural center or nursery. Otherwise, you can go to a seed exchange event or buy them online (for example here or on Amazon).
Support the construction site. The loofah is a climbing plant so it needs a support to climb on, a netting will be fine, the metal ones used in patios are perfect to mount. The support must be resistant, knowing that the fruits which will form are quite heavy (like a cucumber of good size).
Irrigation . You need a good supply of water for the development of the plant, do not forget to wet the loofah, the ideal is that the soil never dries out. If you don’t mulch the garden every day.
weeds and weeds . Being a climber, it suffers little competition from weeds, so there is little weeding work, it can be useful to weed the soil to avoid crusting and oxygenate it.
Additional fertilization. Cucurbits are very demanding plants, it is best to provide nutrients by fertilizing when the plant begins to grow.
Plagues and diseases . The main problem of this plant is the white disease, a cryptogamic disease already known to those who have grown pumpkins or zucchini and which is combated biologically with sulfur, but above all by eliminating the diseased parts of the plant to avoid the spread of the fungus.
Grow loofah on the balcony or in a pot . The fact that it is a vine makes the luffa a suitable crop also for the balcony garden, where it can be kept more simply than gourds because it grows vertically and is therefore less space-consuming. Either way, you need a good sized pot, we suggest a minimum of 40cm deep and 30cm in diameter, then obviously you need some support where the climber can thrive. To grow the loofah on the balcony, you need to use nutrient-rich soil and prepare drainage (gravel or expanded clay) at the bottom of the vase to prevent stagnation. Otherwise, growing loofah on the balcony is similar to growing in the garden.
pick up and use
take the sponge . While zucchini is eaten when it is unripe, if you want to use the sponges you must allow the loofah fruit to ripen on the plant, this occurs when the skin turns from green to brown, five or six months. At this point it is collected and left to dry for a few days, the skin is removed and the inside is obtained, which is the natural sponge. To peel it, it is better to cut the petiole. To obtain the sponge, take the inside of the dried fruit and clean it of seeds and impurities: the best method is to let it macerate in water and then crush it several times, repeating the maceration if necessary. If you save the seeds, you can plant more plants next year.
The loofah sponge. The result is a hypoallergenic, all-natural, eco-friendly sponge. It can be used for body care, in the shower, in massage and with an exfoliating function, or for cleaning the house. When the sponge wears out, it is thrown into the wet pile or compost heap, as it is 100% organic material.
eat loofah . The sponge is edible, it is necessary to pick the young fruits, as for the zucchini. However, compared to zucchini, it is less tasty and more bitter, so it is not very popular as a vegetable. If you want to try it, we recommend it in soups or fried foods.