by Texas Homesteader ~
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Did you know you can grow your own luffa (loofah) sponge in your garden? They’re easy to grow, eco friendly and fully compostable. And so many uses too!
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Who Knew You Could Grow Loofah?
Several years ago I became aware that you could actually grow your own luffa (or loofah) sponge in the garden.
You mean those little scrubby things you use in the shower? Who knew??!!
OK I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’d always thought luffas were some sort of product from the sea. But apparently not!
Now I always grow my own luffa sponges and couldn’t be happier!
Homegrown Luffa Benefits
There are several benefits I’ve found to growing my own luffa. (I’ll discuss them in detail a little further below.)
- Young luffa can actually be eaten like squash.
- Luffa is easy to grow and produces heavily.
- Luffa sponges are fully compostable at the end of their useful life.
- Mature luffa can be used to exfoliate your skin.
- Luffa pieces can be used to scrub your shower.
- Use luffa to scrub & clean your dishes.
- Save soap and soapy mess by turning luffa into a soap holder.
- Interesting Christmas gift idea – homemade luffa soap
Luffa has a longer maturation date. It’s said they need about 4 months of warm weather to produce properly.
So I’ll often start them in my Indoor Greenhouse to give them a jump-start. Then I plant the seedlings in the garden with the rest of my veggie plants when the danger of frost has passed.
That luffa grows into a long, tenacious vine. Soon pretty yellow flowers began to appear. Our honeybees loved them and visited them every day. But at first I didn’t see any luffa growing.
Then one day a tiny luffa appeared. YEA! I was pretty excited because this particular year I’d planted luffa specifically to include with our homemade Christmas gifts.
So I was hoping I’d get a good harvest that year. (don’t worry, I DID!)
Young Luffa Are Edible
If you harvest those luffas while they’re young and small you can actually eat them. I liken them to a type of zucchini or squash. Although the flavor is slightly different it’s very similar to zucchini to me.
But you’ll want to harvest them young – when they’re only about 5″ long or so.
I like to slice them and sauté them in a little butter with onions and garlic.
And I’ve noticed in my garden that squash bugs don’t seem to bother luffa. So I will often plant and enjoy luffa along with my zucchini.
Since luffas take longer in the season to produce I’ll enjoy zucchini in the early garden months. Then when the squash bugs decimate the zucchini plants (and despite my best efforts they aaaaalways do) I’ll use the luffa for a zucchini substitute for the rest of the gardening season.
Maturing Luffa For Sponges
But if you want to grow luffa into sponges, just let them go wild! I allow the vines to grow along the entire length of the fence between my garden and chicken yard.
The vines offer shade to the chickens and about 50 luffa sponges for me.
Soon those luffas will grow to 1-2 feet long or more. Let me tell ya, that fence was feeling the strain of the weight of all those luffas!
So you want to make sure you have a sturdy trellis to hold them.
Harvesting Mature Luffa Sponges
When the luffa matures it begins to feel lighter as the once-dense insides become dry & fibrous. The skin feels thinner and begins to turn yellow. I’ll watch them until I feel they’re ready to harvest from the vine.
You can allow the luffa to dry completely on the vine if you like. The skin will turn brown and be hard and crunchy.
If I’ve allowed the luffa to dry that way I’ll harvest the dried luffa and squeeze it gently all the way around to crack the outer shell.
Then I’ll pull the hardened pieces of skin from the luffa.
Easier Luffa Peeling Tip
But I’ve found it’s significantly easier to peel the luffa if I’ll harvest when they’re just beginning to yellow and the skin is thin. By harvesting at this time I can peel a whole luffa in seconds.
I’ll take a knife and score along the thin yellowed skin. Then I’ll work my fingertips beneath the skin and peel the luffa skin away. I’m left with a very wet, very green fibrous luffa.
There’s a sweet spot in peeling time here. Harvest the luffa too early and the skin is still thick and firmly attached.
That means you’ll have to pull it off in very wet chunks. It takes a long time to peel and tends to mar the tender still-green luffa beneath.
But if you can time it right, the skins peel off effortlessly and your luffa is intact. So I’m always watching for the sweet spot timeframe to harvest and peel my luffa.
After they’re peeled I’ll set the luffas in the sun and allow them to air dry completely. Soon they’re very dry and very lightweight.
If you shake them you can hear the seeds rattling inside. (and there will be LOTS of seeds!)
How To Use Dried Luffa
There are many ways we use the dry luffa. Most people are familiar with the benefits of using a luffa in the shower to exfoliate their skin. Many people buy luffa sponges for the shower, they’re often made of plastic. Ugh.
But growing your own luffa makes for an eco-friendly, compostable & zero-waste luffa sponge.
Personally I feel at first use the home-grown luffa feels a little harsh to my skin. So for that very first use I’ll wet it down first and allow the fibers to soften until I can squeeze it with my hand. Then scrub away.
Cleaning Shower Walls
I also have a larger section of luffa on the windowsill in my shower.
After I’ve taken my shower I’ll often use this all-natural ‘scrubby sponge’ to clean the shower walls and shower-door glass.
It keeps the soap scum at bay.
Scrubbing Kitchen Dishes
The dried luffa can be used as a kitchen scrubby sponge too. After the first use you’re easily able to wet & squeeze the luffa.
I use my homegrown compostable luffa for cleaning dishes the same as you would use a sponge or even one of those green plastic scrubby things.
So I keep a luffa sponge on the edge of my kitchen sink to use to wash dishes. No plastic! The luffa can simply be composted when it’s done enough heavy duty.
Luffa Soap Saver
We like to use bar soap because there’s no plastic container to dispose of. (Why yes I hate plastic, why do you ask? LOL)
RancherMan & I have made our own homemade bar soap for over a decade now. We make several different kinds such as Lavender/Rosemary Soap, refreshing Morning Motivation Mint Soap and even Shampoo Bars.
But you know how it is with bar soap. You use it to lather you hands and then return the soap to the edge of the sink where it sits in a puddle of water, dries slowly and makes a goopy mess.
So you buy those little soap holder thingies to put the soap on. But I’m telling you there’s no need when you’re growing luffa!
I just cut a thick slice of luffa and place it on the edge of my sink to hold my bar soap. When I use the soap to wash my hands I return it to this luffa round.
There’s plenty of airflow through the luffa sponge to allow the soap to dry properly. And no messy soap sludge on the sink, plus my soap lasts longer!
Luffa Christmas Gifts
Y’all know we like to gift Homemade Gifts for Christmas. We just feel it helps us to live our values. And it also assures those gift recipients are being given real gifts straight from our hearts.
We purposely grew luffa one year to include with our homemade Christmas gift baskets. Included in each gift basket was some homemade soap, a home-grown dried and peeled luffa & some Soapberry Shampoo.
We even made RancherMan’s favorite luffa soap. We cut the dried luffa into thick circles and wedged each piece into a *Silicone Muffin Pan. Then we poured the soap on top.
Finally we let them cool and popped the soaps out of the muffin molds. Voila!
So if you’d like to grow your own luffa it’s easy to do and they grow abundantly. It’s a great zero-waste step to take for so many helpful household purposes.
Links In This Post
- Indoor Greenhouse
- Reducing Plastic In Your Home
- Homemade Lavender/Rosemary Cold Process Soap
- Morning Motivation Homemade Cold Process Mint Soap
- Homemade Shampoo Bars
- Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas
- Zero-Waste Soapberry Shampoo
- *Silicone Muffin Pan
My Favorite Garden Hacks
- Easy Garden Planning Spreadsheet
- Getting A Jump: Planting An Indoor Greenhouse
- Repurposed Cardboard Seed-Starting Pots
- 3-Sister’s Garden – The Original Companion Planting
- Planting A Large Galvanized Trough
- Tricking Birds AWAY From Your Strawberry Plants
- Easy Compost For A Healthy Garden
- Propping Tender Seedlings
- Cheap (or FREE) Wood Mulch For The Garden
- Using Vining Plants For Living Mulch
- Homestead Hack: Remember Where You Planted Seeds
- Keeping Potted Plants Watered
- Planting A Blueberry Bush In Galvanized Tub
- Stevia – Growing Your Own Sweetener!
- How I Use EcoBricks In The Garden
- Repurposing A Coffee Can For Deep-Soak Watering
- How Leaves Benefit Your Garden
- My Simple, Zero-Waste Herb Drying Setup
- The Lazy Gardener’s Plant List – Plant Once, Eat For Years!
- How To Tell When Watermelon Is Ripe
- Luffa A Surprising Zucchini Substitute!
- How To Make Your Own Garden Soil
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