Over 10 years ago I grew a luffa vine. This vigorous climber produced so many fruits that I haven’t grown it since and have been using the dried “sponges”for cleaning dishes ever since. My stock of dried luffa was running low so this last summer I grew it again to replenish the stores.
There are many web sites describing how to grow, dry and prepare the luffa fruit. In our local climate the main tip I would like to offer is around timing of when to sow the seed. I have found that the seed really needs a lot of warmth to successfully germinate and thrive. The most success I have had with seed sown in the ground is when seed is sown in late November – early December OR germinated in a glass house then planted into warm soil. I have also created in-situ hot houses by putting an upside down glass vase over the seed to encourage some very localised heat.
Once the seed has germinated and beginning to grow the vine will become incredibly vigorous. I tend to tip prune growth that is taking over. This also encourages the plant to set more flowers and therefore more fruit. Like the pumpkins, squashes, zucchinis and cucumbers in the garden the flowers open in the morning and close at night. The pollination is aided by bees and other native pollinators.
The cucumber-like fruit I leave on the vine to mature. The fruit looks like it is rotting by it slowly dries until the skin is easily peeled away to reveal the luffa as we know it. Having said this I recently read this article and I will harvest some the fruit early – peel and see what happens.
What I love about growing this plant is the closed loop of growing a product that I use in the house and when it doesn’t work so well anymore can just go into the compost and back to the earth. It’s a thought process I try and apply to many aspects of our lives – what happens when I no longer need this item?
So next summer if you have a spot in the garden that can support a vine perhaps this could be worth trying.