Loofah is also spelled luffa or lufa. It is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family which includes pumpkins and cucumbers. Loofah fruit is processed after harvesting to produce the common loofah sponge. It has been cultivated for hundreds of years. The loofah plant produces annual vines over 12-feet long. The plant is cold-sensitive and requires a very long growing season in order to mature into a dried sponge. Loofah seeds have slow sprouting times and resent transplanting. Loofahs are heavy feeders and require fertile soil to thrive. They also need a strong support system like a fence or trellis.
Allow the loofah fruit to vine ripen. Towards the end of summer the mature loofah fruits will loose weight. Their skin turns yellow or brown as they mature.
Cut the loofahs off the vines with a sharp knife once a hard frost kills the loofah plants. Once the plants die, the loofahs stop maturing.
Remove the loofah plants from the planting area. Add the dead loofah plants to your compost pile. By removing plant debris, you eliminate insect hiding places and plant disease hosts.
Lay the loofah fruits out to dry in a warm area with low humidity. Turn the fruit every couple of days.
Check the loofah fruit every couple of days by shaking them. If you hear the seeds rattling inside, then the loofahs are ready to be processed into sponges.
Things You Will Need
- Loofah vines with fruit
- Sharp knife
- Harvest immature fruit three months after planting when they are 3 to 5 inches long if you plan to eat them. Young loofah fruits can be cooked like summer squash or used in soups, casseroles and omelets. Larger fruit over 6 inches long need to be peeled first before eating because the skin turns bitter as the fruit ages.
- Keep loofah fruit off the ground. If it develops rotten spots or holes, throw the fruit out. Loofah fruits can weight up to 3 lbs. so needs to be supported off the ground.