Luffa acutangula is a very versatile plant. As a vegetable, the leaves can be eaten in a salad, the very young gourds, known as Chinese Okra taste like aubergine (zucchini).
The matured dried gourd develops into a fibrous netting. It is an excellent sponge and makes wonderful skin scrubs and exfoliators. They are also useful for washing dishes, the car or windows and have industrial applications such as for water filters. They can last for years and are easily cleaned in the washing machine.
Luffas are easy to grow but require a long growing season of frost free weather. But for those in colder climates, seedlings can be started early indoors and then transplanted outside. The vine can grow to great lengths producing beautiful yellow flowers all summer.
Store seeds until planting time in their packaging in a cool, dark, dry place. (Do not refrigerate) Sow indoors at temperatures above 20°C (68°F). The plants need a long growing season to get a good crop of sponges.
Soak seed for two hours in warm water before sowing. Fill small pots with a good free draining seed compost.
Stand the pots in water until the medium is completely moist. Place seed on the surface and press into the compost.
Cover with a sprinkling of compost or vermiculite.
Bottom heat is helpful, place in a propagator if you have one or seal the container inside a polythene bag and place in a warm location out of direct sunlight.
Do not exclude light at any stage as this is beneficial to germination.
Germination usually takes 7 to 21 days at 20 to 30°F (68 to 86°F).
Plant out in early summer, after all risk of frost has gone. Support the vine on a strong trellis or fence.
Water during warm weather and apply a fertiliser with high nitrogen content, once a month.
Easy to grow with no insect problems
Pick the gourds once they start to turn yellow and are becoming very light in weight. Don't wait too long as where the brown spots are, becomes hard to peel and the sponge beneath is discoloured.
Cut both ends to begin to peel of the outer skin and gently tug the skin away from the sponge. Inside the spongy gourd is moist and fibrous. Squeeze it repeatedly from the middle towards the ends to remove the fleshy substance inside and the wash it thoroughly. Plenty of seeds will come out – wash, dry and store these for next year.
If a sponge is discoloured, soak it for 5 minutes in warm water with a little bleach. Dry the sponge by either hanging outdoors in fine weather or by placing in an oven at 150 degrees or so.
Sponges can be cut into sections or left whole. Add a length of hemp rope if you like to hang up your shower sponge. A large crop can yield quite a few Christmas gifts.
|Packet Size||10 Seeds|
|Synonym||Luffa cylindrica, aka Loofah or Loofa|
|Common Name||Vegetable sponge, Angled Loofah, Chinese Okra|
|Other Common Names||Ribbed Gourd|
|Natural Flower Time||Fruits: Cylindrical Gourds, 25-50cm (1-2ft)|
|Height||6 to 9m (20-30ft)|
|Spread||15 to 22cm (6-9in)|
|Notes||Tropical Annual, Vegetable, Vine.|