Whether you spell it loofa, loofah or luffa, the incredibly prolific vine produces tons of gourds that can be either eaten at the "green" stage or harvested at the end of growing season to make loofah bath products. And don't forget the value of those seeds you'll be laboring to remove from the harvested plant; you can dry them and give extras away so your friends can grow these entertaining and valuable plants themselves!
Basic Bath Sponge
Harvest loofahs when the gourds become much lighter in weight and color than during the growing season. Avoid waiting until the entire skin turns paper-bag brown, because that could result in a spotted sponge.
Remove the loofah by twisting or cutting the fruit from the vine.
Thump the loofah against a table or other hard surface to loosen the skin.
Twist off the smaller end of the gourd and shake out the seeds. The seeds can be saved for next year's planting, or used in holistic healing. You may have to squeeze and pull the seeds until they are all out.
Peel the loofah with a sharp knife by pressing gently to make a small tear in the skin, and then pulling the remainder of the skin away.
Rinse off the sponges with a hose or sprayer set to high pressure. If the loofahs seem to have brown spots, consider soaking them in 5 gallons of water to which 1 cup of bleach has been added. Bleach the loofahs for about five minutes.
Set the loofahs to dry in the sun, turning them until all parts of the gourds have been dried.
Store loofahs until you need them in a paper bag or cardboard box, set in a fairly dry spot.
To give as gifts, cut both ends of the loofah to a uniform shape. If you have a long gourd, it can be cut into two or three sections.
Stuffed Loofah Soap (or Loofah-Stuffed Soap)
Slice one or both ends off a peeled, dried loofah sponge.
Tape up the bottom end securely with duct tape.
Wrap the gourd in plastic wrap.
Set the loofah on its end in a metal can, length of PVC pipe or large soap mold with a slightly larger diameter than the loofah.
Make soap from scratch (known as the "cold process" method) and bring it to the melted, pre-pour stage. Or grate store-bought soap and melt in a pot or microwave.
Pour the melted soap into the loofah, allowing the liquid to penetrate each of the loofah's cavities.
Alternatively, don't wrap the loofah in plastic wrap. Pour the soap around the loofah instead of inside it.
Allow the soap to cool and harden.
Slice the soap-filled loofah (or loofah-filled soap) into 2-inch disks, or leave as one long soap-sponge.
About this Author
Melissa Jordan-Reilly has been a writer for 20 years, both as a newspaper reporter and as an editor of nonprofit newsletters. Among the publications in which she has published are, "The Winsted Journal," "Taconic" and "Compass Magazine." A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Jordan-Reilly also pursues sustainable agriculture techniques and tends a market garden at her Northwestern Connecticut home.