Do you enjoy a good all natural exfoliating luffa? Sick of synthetic bath scrubbers? What if I told you it's possible to grow your own?
That's right ladies and gentlemen, unlike regular sponges, luffas don't grow in the ocean, sea, or any body of water. In fact, they grow like a squash! All you need is a strong trellis, cattle panel, or chain link fence for the vines to grow on that will handle its heavy fruit.
The luffa sponge a.k.a. Luffa Cylindrica is a rapidly growing ivy like plant, that produces a tender fruit. If harvested young, the fruit can be eaten like a squash.
If you wait for the fruit to mature then an amazing luffa you will have. It takes roughly 130 days for the fruit to ripen fully. Once the fruit becomes brown, hard, and lightweight the skin is ready to be peeled off, leaving a quality luffa sponge behind. Primarily used for bathing other uses include: cleaning pots, pans, and even scrubbing a car's wheels.
Did you know luffas can be machine washed to keep them clean for years? If they begin to color simply soak them in a mild bleach bath for a few minutes. Want cool colored luffas? Natural dies can be used to obtain most color variations.
Photo by Flikr/Dinesh Valke
So how do you grow a luffa plant? It's not as hard as it may first seem. Depending on your growing zone you may need to start your plants up to six weeks before the planting season.
Soak the seeds for twenty-four hours before planted. Plant the seeds in decomposing pots it will help prevent shock after transplanting. Plant the seeds or starts two to three feet apart in a full sun area away from other vegetables and fruits. Don't plant till you're sure the threat of frost is gone. If by chance a late frost is threating the young plants, be sure to cover them well.
Once the vines have spread and clung upon the trellis, gorgeous yellow flowers will soon appear. As the fruit grows you may need to thin out the bounty from time to time. As fall nears the fruits will brown and become light as a feather, it's now time to harvest.
As the brown skin is removed the luffa is exposed. Cut the ends off each luffa removing the black seeds from inside, shake like crazy to make the seeds fall out. The seeds can be dried and saved in a dark cool place to use the following year.
What do you do if a frost is immanent yet the fruit has not completely dried? It's ok gather all the fruit from the vines and bring them indoors. You can peel the green skin off, it will be an annoying task to say the least. The green skin takes way more effort to remove than the dried brown. Lay out the luffas on drying racks of some sort, allowing air to circulate all around them to finish the drying process.
Photo by Flikr/Andrea Schieber
Now begins the fun apply your favorite soap, body wash, or exfoliating rub and luffa up. Want the full all natural effect? Produce or purchase goat milk soap to add to your luffa for a quality bathing experience. Have a ton of extra luffas? They can be sold at local farmers markets and/or flea markets.