ORGANIC LUFFA SPONGE GOURD
Luffa is a genus of tropical and subtropical vines in the cucumber (Cucurbitaceae) family. In everyday non-technical usage, the luffa, also spelled loofah usually means the fruit of the two species L. aegyptiaca and L. acutangula. Luffa is a plant. When the mature fruit is allowed to dry, a fibrous, sponge-like structure remains. The fibers can be boiled in water, which is then used as medicine.
Sometimes the whole luffa “sponge” is rubbed against the skin to remove dead skin and stimulate the skin. Luffa charcoal, which is prepared by heating luffa fibers in a closed container, is applied directly to the skin for shingles in the face and eye region.
In foods, young luffa fruits are eaten as vegetables.
In cosmetics, powdered luffa is used in skin care products to reduce swelling and “detoxify” the skin. Luffa Gourds are closely related to cucumbers. All varieties have thin skin, but one variety (Luffa acutangula) has ridges on it; the other (Luffa cylindrica aka Luffa aegyptica), has smooth skin.
The plant is an annual vine that grows from seed. The seeds have a tough shell on them, so take a while to germinate. The plant is tropical and does not like cold weather; it is frost intolerant.
The vines, which grow 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4 1/2 meters) long, can be trained upwards. The leaves have a bad smell when crushed.
Vines of smooth-skinned varieties produce bright yellow flowers; vines of ridged ones produce white flowers, There are male and female flowers. Male flowers grow in clusters; female flowers are the ones that appear by themselves. The flowers rely on insects to do the pollinating.
The Luffa Gourds grow 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) long and weigh up to 3 pounds (1 1/3 kg.) Some varieties will be longer, some squatter. The skin ripens from green to yellow or yellowish-brown after a long growing season. The flesh inside is white.
When allowed to fully ripen, the flesh becomes quite fibrous, and then dries out and becomes light, and the rind will be hard. The dried out flesh frees up many small, flat, smooth black seeds, that will rattle inside.
For eating, Luffa Gourds should be harvested immature while they are still just 1 to 2 inches (2 1/2 to 5 cm) wide, under 6 inches (15 cm) long and the skin is still green. Some cultivars are better for eating than others, as some have a bitter tasting skin. Good edible varieties include “Edible Ace” (popular in China and Taiwan), “Smooth Beauty”, “Hybrid Jupiter”, “Hybrid Green Glory”, and “Hybrid Asian Pride.”
The fiber of fully mature Luffa Gourds can be used as a sponge. To harvest for a sponge, you peel off the skin or soak in warm water for twenty minutes until the sponge will easily slip away from the rest of the gourd. Change the water a few times to help prevent the sponge inside from getting stained. Ridged ones are harder to peel to get the sponges out of.
When the fiber piece has been extracted, rinse to wash off any pulp, then remove and discard seeds.
The sponges are tan or light brown, but many like to bleach them in a weak (10%) standard bleach solution for an hour, or in a hydrogen peroxide solution. It isn’t necessary to bleach them, though the unbleached sponge can appear “stained” in some areas, bleaching them does ensure that they are clean and sterile for use, free of any insects the eye can’t see, etc.
Luffa sponges that you buy commercially are grown from special commercial seed and grown under very controlled conditions. Most home garden cultivars will produce smaller, fluffier, more flexible sponges that you might be fine with using, though they won’t compete with the commercial ones for quality.
Luffa sponges can be used to peel vegetables with. Allow the sponges to dry between uses; they will deteriorate quickly if kept damp all the time. The sponges can be washed in a washing machine or in the dishwasher.
Ways to Use Luffa Sponges You Won’t Believe
There are so many luffa sponge benefits. Luffa sponges are used for the body, home, and are even edible.
- Sponges exfoliate
- Sponges can scrub dishes
- Loofah sponges can get the gunk off of your car
- Sponges can clean your gutters or other outside fixtures
- Sponges can be cut and put in soaps for exfoliating bars of soap
- Sponges can be used to scrub the grime off of your fingernail beds
- Loofah sponges can be used for a back scratcher
- Luffa sponges can be used to scrub the mud out of the soles of your shoes
- Sponges can be used to keep your bars of soap dry
- Luffas are edible
- Luffa sponges can be used for a unique painting texture
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