Louffa, Luffa, Loofah, Luffah, Loofa...
No matter how you spell it, this amazing plant is fun to grow and has lots of uses. It is a relative of the cucumber family, and grows as a trellising vine with large yellow flowers that the bees love. We like to trellis ours on arches so that the fruits hang below and are easy to find and harvest. The first time I saw one I thought they were zucchini! Most people have no idea this is where luffa sponges come from.
If picked while they are young, it's said that they are edible. Like many squash blossoms, the big yellow flowers of the louffa are also edible and can be added to salads. The edible fruit is quite nutritious and is used by some people to help prevent many ailments such as arthritis, muscle pain, weight loss and anemia. they contain various antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, nutrients and lipids. It is an excellent source of Vitamin A and carbohydrates. It is also a very good source of Vitamin B5, Manganese, Potassium, Copper, Total dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Magnesium. I'm not a doctor, and can't provide any medicinal information, but it couldn't hurt to add these to your diet. We haven't tried them but plan to this growing season! I'll post again when we do and let you know how they are.
We leave them on the vine until the end of the season to dry. When they are all brown and dry, and you can hear the seeds in them when you shake them, then the insides have dried up. When you peel them, you find natures most awesome sponge!!
I like to use them for cleaning. I keep a few by the kitchen sink and use them as scrubby pads. I also keep one in the shower to use on my skin - they are great at exfoliating! I also like to slice off an inch-thick piece to put under soap in soap dishes to prevent soap buildup. When it's time to replace my shower luffa, I use it to give the shower walls a scrub down first.
We sell louffas at the local market and in our online store. Many of the sponges you find at the big box stores have been bleached. You get ours in their natural state - you may even find a seed or two lodged inside. If you plan to use them on your skin, we recommend using some hot soapy water to give them a good rinse first.
Typically they will last about 6 months depending on what you are cleaning with them. You can toss them into the top rack of the dishwasher to sanitize them. One of the things I really love about these natural sponges is that when they've reached the end of their usefulness, you just toss them into the compost bin and there is no waste!
Have you used Louffas? Please leave us a comment and let us know your favorite way to use them!
Our luffas are all Certified South Carolina Grown. We use natural growing methods - no chemicals are used in growing or harvesting.