The loofah is a member of the CUCURBITACEAE family. There are 2 forms - the smooth (Luffa cylindrical) and the angular (Luffa acutangula).
The loofah is a small but vigorous vine. The flowers are yellow and the males appear in clusters while the females are singular on the same vine. It grows vigorously in summer and trails over fences, trees and other structures. The plants will self-seed readily in your garden.
You can eat the immature fruit when they are about the size of a small zucchini. They can be eaten raw or cooked in stir-fry or soup dishes. Older fruit are tough and fibrous and should be left on the vine to mature into loofahs.
The loofahs vary in length with some of them growing to over 40 cm long. When the loofahs have matured and preferably dried on the vine, cut them off and soak them in warm water until the skin is soft enough to peel off, leaving the sponge (24 hours). Sometimes it is easy to peel the loofahs when they have come off the vine and are dry. Test one.
You can then soak the loofahs in a solution of Nappisan or a mild bleach solution until the loofahs are bleached. You may need to put a weight on the bucket to hold them under the solution. Rinse and dry the loofahs in the sun and then use them for all the following ideas and whatever your imagination creates.
Loofahs can be:
used to make a spongy soap - get an empty waxed milk carton. Cut a loofah to fit inside it. Then pour on your favourite soap mixture for your own soap. When dry peel off the waxed paper and then slice the loofah into good size pieces for use in the bathroom.
used as a sponge/face washer in the bath or shower to scrub your body
used to filter out oil from water
After the loofah has reached the end of its useful life, then use it to:
clean the walls of the bath, shower or anywhere
scrub pots and dishes in the sink
clean your barbecue plate
keep it in the chook run to clean the water dishes
clean mud off boots.
DATE: December 2001
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