Denise Schreiber is the infamous Mrs. Know It All of The Organic Gardeners on KDKA radio and author of Eat Your Roses.

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How to Grow Luffa Sponges
by Denise Schreiber       #How to   #Vegetables   #Vines


Cut luffas ready for use
 

Luffa gourd seeds

You’ve seen them in drugstores and beauty magazines as bath sponges, but did you know you can grow your own luffas? Luffa aegyptiaca and L. acutangula are members of the Cucurbitaceae family. It is an easy to grow vining plant that will happily connect itself to your garden fence. Since it needs a long growing season, it is suggested that you start the seeds indoors several weeks before your last spring frost.

Soak the seeds overnight to help speed up germination. It will take seven to 10 days for them to germinate. When you plant them in the garden, protect the seedlings from slugs and birds until the leaves are large enough. They need a rich, fertile soil with adequate water. As they grow, you can even self-pollinate the female flowers (they will have several small fruits at the base of the flowers) to increase your yield. As they grow, train them along your fence to help provide good air circulation.

Harvest the gourds when they have dried on the vine or, at the minimum, have turned yellow. The skins will have dried and it is very easy to peel off the outer skin revealing the honeycombed interior. Shake out the seeds (there will be many) and use the handle of a spatula or other long handled object to remove the seeds stuck inside the cavity.

Dried luffa gourd • Luffas soak in a bleach solution to brighten the color • Dried and peeled gourd
 

Make a 10-1 bleach solution (9 parts water to 1 part bleach) and soak the peeled gourds for 20-30 minutes to lighten up the color. You may occasionally see a dark spot where a seed was stuck to the fibers. It is nothing to worry about although it may not bleach out. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely.

They can be used whole or cut in half for use in the bath or cut into smaller slices and used as scrubbers for dishes and pans.

 

A version of this article appeared in a November/December 2018 print edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Top photo ©Jiang Hongyan/shutterstock. Other photography courtesy of Denise Schreiber.

 

Posted: 11/29/18   RSS | Print

 

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