In the garden: Growing Loofah

I’ve had some people ask questions in a garden group about growing loofah and I promised I’d share my experience.  It seems like loofah should come from the ocean, right?  Well, it’s actually from the cucumber family and grows on a vine with a beautiful yellow flower.

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I was having trouble with the pollination of some gourds in my garden the previous year, so I pollinated these myself.  It’s a very long growing season so start as soon as your frost ends.  Since I am now in the Pacific Northwest, I think I’ll grow in my greenhouse for the heat.

Let the loofah dry on the vine until the outer membrane is brown.

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The ribs in the membrane have a string-like thread running along the length.  Pull the thread and remove the membrane.  Some of the seeds will begin to fall out so have a cloth spread out to catch them.

IMG_7433Whack the gourd into a bucket and catch all the seeds.  Yay!  More loofah seeds to plant and share with your friends.  Your friends are definitely going to want to plant when they see your amazing loofah.

IMG_7435Rinse the loofah well.

One of the most amazing things I’ve noticed is that this homegrown and unprocessed loofa doesn’t mildew like store bought.  I cut up with a good pair of scissors and place a piece in every bathroom shower.  Don’t forget to put a few in the kitchen to scrub pots and pans.  If you are a soap maker, pour soap to harden inside slices of loofa.  Search Pinterest for more uses of this wonderful garden sponge.

You will have plenty to last the year or two and enough to share with all your friends.

 


Growing Loofah

I am so happy with my garden loofah. I’m told one can eat the fruit when small, but I let them grow and dry out because I wanted to harvest the loofah! Growing even one loofah plant will produce a life-time supply of seeds.

Loofah is part of the cucumber family with gourds and pumpkins. I know, crazy, right? A lot of people have told me they thought it was from the ocean. The vine is pretty and flowers profusely with yellow flowers. The male flowers in clusters that provide weeks of blooms per cluster.

Loofah Male Flowers
Cluster of male flowers.

The female flowers singularly and when pollinated, continues to produce the fruit.

Female flower and fruit
Female flower has withered and fruit is beginning to grow.

Ants love the flowers and I just let them go about their business. They don’t affect the flowers, nor the fruit.

I planted in the spring and it grew up a post and across the gazebo; a long growing season. One plant produced three nice-sized fruits. There were a couple that did not get pollinated.

Growing Loofah

About two weeks ago, the fruit started to dry out on the vine. You want to pick the fruit when it’s dry, but not too dry. If will be easier to pull the skin off in one piece if it is not dried out completely. This one is brown, but a little soft, too.

Dried loofah ready for peeling.
Dried loofah ready for peeling.

Break off the end and begin peeling. The ribs are connected with a seriously strong string-like fiber. You could probably sew something together with that fiber! The skin peels off rather easily and you will see the seeds inside the fibrous membrane.

Peeling the skin off the loofah. Brown seeds inside.
Peeling the skin off the loofah. Brown seeds inside.

Check out how many seeds are inside each one. Just shake the loofah and the seeds will fall out at the ends.

Loofah with Seeds

I’ve been using loofah to exfoliate for years. Now that I have a nice supply of seeds, I will try out a piece of loofah at my kitchen sink because I’ve heard that it’s wonderful for cleaning dishes.

If you want to read more about loofah, I suggest this website.