(first published December 2007, updated May 2010)
A luffa sponge is often found in a bathroom as they have great exfoliating (removal of dead skin cells) properties. Did you ever wonder where they came from?
Luffa sponges aren’t a product of the plastics industry, nor are they a sea sponge; which is an animal. luffa is a plant; so it’s an environmentally and vegan friendly product – and what’s more you can grow your own!
As well being useful in the bathroom, they make a great kitchen sponge and if the fruit is harvested before maturity, it can be eaten – cook it like zucchini.
In some places, Luffa are used to make mats, slippers, insoles and a project in Paraguay found a way to mix luffa with plastic waste to construct inexpensive panels for walls and roofing for building houses.
Luffa on the vine – Photo by Pekinensis
A Luffa sponge – Photo by Jerry Crimson Mann
Luffa seeds can be bought online – try using your favorite search engine using the following query:
luffa seeds COUNTRY
.. where country is, well – your country :)
Luffa is an annual, closely related to the cucumber. It produces very long vines and should be trellised in order to keep the heavy fruits off the ground. They do best in tropical and subtropical areas; but can be started off inside to avoid frosts. They will require some watering if you’re in a particularly dry area. The produce best in full sun and take 6 months to mature to a point of harvesting – which is just after the vine dies off.
It looks to be a very simple process. I came across this great guide on Groovy Green – complete with photos detailing the various steps. Another great source of information on growing, harvesting and preparing is Luffa.info.
Don’t forget to save and dry the seeds you’ll get during the preparation so you’ll never have to buy them again – they keep for years if refrigerated or frozen.
Luffa care tips
The white Luffa available commercially has been bleached. While you can do this yourself with a weak solution of ordinary bleach, it’s really not necessary and will shorten the life of the sponge.
If allowed to dry between uses a Loofa will usually last a couple of months. Grow and prepare enough of your own and you’ll have plenty for all year round; plus with a little creativity, perhaps you’ll be able to start up a small cottage industry!