Leaving a smaller ecological footprint is what many of us aim for and I’ve got a neat little way to help you reduce your footprint by growing luffa (aka loofah) gourds and turning them into bath sponges for your body and kitchen sponges for your pots and pans.
So many people see these and think they’re from the sea. While many natural sponges are actually from the sea, it’s important that we don’t over-harvest these sea creatures to maintain an ecological balance. A better way is to grow your own sponges in a sustainable organic garden, reducing the harm done to the environment and getting things (including your body) nice and clean at the same time.
Growing your own luffa is just like growing pumpkin or squash. They do take a lot of space and I prefer to grow mine on a trellis so that the developing fruit can hang down rather than spread out on the ground.
Keeping your luffa gourds free from mould is important so hanging from a trellis or arch is a good way to achieve this.
How to get more luffas (loofahs)
In the same way that pumpkins or squash and zucchinis produce different male and female flowers, so does the luffa. For better results and to help get more luffas on your vine, try to hand pollinate. Read about how you can hand pollinate in this blog post. You can see the different flowers below.
When to harvest your luffa
You know your loofah is ready to harvest once it starts to turn yellow and dry out, eventually turning brown. The longer you can leave it on the vine to dry out, the better.
Mine started to get some rotting in patches due to the heavy rain experienced during another La Nina weather pattern. So the one in the picture above was taken off and allowed to dry out in the sun. Keep your luffa out of the rain while it dries out and soon you’ll be ready to prepare your luffa and transform it into a sponge.
How to prepare a luffa sponge
It’s pretty easy to prepare your luffa. Just follow the steps here.
Steps to prepare your luffa sponge:
1. Harvest your luffa either fully dry or still green
2. Dry the luffa in the sun if it’s stil green and wait for the skin to turn brown. (I waited a week).
3. Pick the bell off the end and shake out the seeds.
4. Crush the luffa to break up the skin and then peel the skin off.
5. Cut the luffa into sections and remove any remaining seeds inside.
6. Give the luffa a good wash in soapy water as it may still be a bit slimey if not fully ripe when harvested.
7. Rinse under cold water.
8. Squeeze out any water and allow to dry out completely.
Your luffa is then ready to use. It’s a great environmentally friendly alternative to scourers for pots and pans and a good exfoliator in the shower. Just allow it to dry fully after using. When it’s getting old simply put it in the compost, then replace it with a new one.
Watch the video below to see how I did it. If you learnt something new, you can discover even more sustainable gardening ideas when you join my VIP Club membership. Find out how you can transform your life, eat from your garden every day and live more sustainably.