In a recent post about Natural Sponges I mentioned that Loofah is a plant pod (unlike the sea sponge which is an animal) that you can grow in your own backyard.
They are an awesome exfoliate in the bath and shower and make great scrubbies for household cleaning, washing fruits and vegetables and even pots and pans. They’re environmentally friendly (unlike plastic and rubber ones that don’t breakdown so they sit in landfills and washed up on beaches for an eternity, and cause serious harm to the animals who get tangled in them or ingest them), vegan and apparently pretty easy to grow and harvest yourself.
I haven’t tried it yet myself but I intend to and will document the progress and outcome for you all. I don’t have a yard of my own but a little spot on a terrace.so we’ll see how successful I am. In the meantime I’ll leave you with instructions so you can try it out yourself if you like.
Loofah grows best in an environment with a long frost-free season so if you live in a colder climate you might want to start the seeds indoors. Pre-soaking in warm water for 48 hours will speed germination.
The *seeds can take as little as 10 days and up to about 2 or 3 weeks to sprout and can be transplanted as soon as the soil has warmed; roughly around the second half of May.
Plant one to three plants in a hill, with hills at about 1/2 inch deep , spaced 3 feet to 6 feet(2m) apart.
Provide lots of sun and don’t let the soil get too dry. Keep the soil moist but not too wet, the plants can’t survive in waterlogged soil.
While the loofah plants are small they are vulnerable to weeds and pests so back plastic or dark mulch around the base of new plants can help protect them and help warm the soil. Once the vines begin to bolt and grow larger, they’re strong enough to fend for themselves.
Loofah grow on vines and can exceed 30 feet and tend to get quite heavy so strong trellis or fence to climb is a must.
When the green color of the fruit has started fading and the skin feels loose like it will come off easily. That’s when it’s ready. The loofah is easiest to peel when they are fully dry but tend to get darker the longer they hang and if subjected to a lot of rain are likely to develop rot or dark spots. If any part turns black it should be peeled before the whole fruit spoils.
The loofah sponges can be removed by twisting until the vine breaks. If the vine is still alive it may be desirable to neatly cut the sponges off in order to minimize damage to the vine.
If the loofah is fully ripe the skin will come off easily. If not, try knocking the loofah against a hard surface to loosen the skin and seeds.
If you want to save the seeds for planting next spring, make sure they are properly dried before storing so they don’t get moldy. Refrigerate or freeze in airtight containers for long term storage.
Wash loofah with soapy water in a bucket then spray to rinse. Squeeze and shake out excess water. If you find that your loofah fiber is very dark you can soak it in a bucket of water with a little bit of bleach to remove most stains but the drying them in the sun tends to bleach and lighten them naturally.
Rotate as needed, allowing the sponge to dry completely before storing
They can be kept for years as long as they stay dry and dust free.
Good luck and keep us posted on your progress and feel free to send in photos or tips if you have any!