The first step to growing loofah is selecting the right seeds. The best seeds are darker in color and hard in texture. Lighter and softer seeds are not mature and as viable for production. You can obtain seeds from many different suppliers both on the web and or at some retail locations. Once you have produce your first crop, save the best of the seeds from it for your next year’s production.
Growing loofah take patience. From germination, taking about two weeks, to harvest averages up to four months. Loofah likes hot weather and will grow more slowly in cooler climates. Loofah plants require lots of sunshine, water and strong large trellises to grow on. One loofah vine can grow over twenty feet. If you are in an area with a shorter growing season you may still be able to produce loofah by starting seedlings in a pot and then transplanting when the plant has produced a couple of leaves and danger of frost is past. Remember to water regularly before and after transplanting.
Loofah is a sponge gourd and may look like a very large unusual cucumber as it grows. Loofah is easiest to peel when it is fully dry. Picking it to early will result in underdeveloped fibers but waiting to long can leave dark spots or rot from too much water. Timing is the balance. When your loofah has lost most of it’s green color, turning to a yellow shade and has lost a lot of its’ original weight it is time to harvest. You should check frequently as harvest time nears. Once loofah has been hit by the first frost they will be done with growth and should be harvested immediately. Younger loofah’s will have softer fibers, better for baths and ones older at harvest will have harder, more dense fibers.
When beginning to harvest it is best to use cutters to snip the loofah from the vine to prevent damage to the vine. The next step can be very therapeutic after a hard day. Slam the loofah lengthwise against a hard surface. You may also crush it under a larger flat object but slamming could be more fun. Knock or cut the bottom tip of the sponge off. Most off the seeds can now be removed by shaking. Remember to save the best for next year. Freeze or refrigerate for long term storage.
To peel, find a soft spot in the outer skin. Push in slightly to tear and pull the outer skin apart. Once you are done peeling off all of the outer skin you need to wash the loofah. Use a high pressure spray to remove as much sap color as possible. You may also used a very mild bleach solution to soak. This will also help remove extra seeds. Shake and squeeze out excess water and allow to dry. Protect the loofah from dust while drying and after.
Loofah, loofa, loufa or luffa, the spelling choice is yours. So are it’s many uses. Loofah is not only good as a bath sponge but also can be used in chores around the house and for washing dishes. If you end up with more than you need you could also create gift baskets for many different occasions. Many spellings, many uses and gift potential, enjoy your loofah growing!