Annual climbing plant producing cucumber like fruits that can be made into a natural sponge. It’s part of the cucurbit family originating in India and produces 30 to 40 centimetres long fruits. Whilst the young fruits are actually edible, the mature ones can be boiled or dried to remove the flesh, revealing the sponge like fibres.
Germination can be tricky, needs hot temperatures constantly between 24 and 30°C and a long season to make a sponge.
The Luffas should be ready to harvest in October, once the skin of the fruits starts to wither. Harvest and stack them up somewhere warm, dry and airy, making sure to turn them. The skin should reach a point where it can easily peel off leaving the fibrous inner. Shake the seeds out and give a thorough wash to clean it. The luffa is likely to have natural brown markings on it; shop-bought luffas are bleached. (Approximate seed count – 15)
Luffa tips: Sow early as transplants and keep in temperatures above 24°C. The plants are heat lovers and will want to grow up fences or trellis in a greenhouse, conservatory or polytunnel. To make a sponge the fruit must be allowed to mature fully on the plant thus needs a long season.