Inside every seed catalog, there are vegetation you flip previous—those that you simply’ve by no means heard of. These vegetation are inclined to lean in direction of “crops” that you simply don’t assume you’ve got the room to develop: sorghum, these warty gourds, wheat. Yearly I ask myself, “Who’s rising all these cardoons?”
Luffa, nevertheless, shouldn’t be skipped. Why luffa? As a result of you understand it as “loofah,” the sponge that surprisingly doesn’t dwell on the backside of the ocean. If the notion of actually rising your personal sponges delights you, then you need to develop some luffa this 12 months.
Luffa is an extended, slim, hanging squash that appears like an alien cucumber, which isn’t odd, because it’s a part of the identical household–cucurbits–that cucumbers and squash inhabit. Initially regarded as from Asia, it wasn’t till India started cultivating it that manufacturing took off. The European colonizers in America grew luffa as one of many first domesticated crops, however they didn’t develop it to eat, which could have been a mistake.
Sure, You Can Eat It
Luffa, when immature, is definitely rather a lot like a zucchini in taste. (Critical Eats described it because the “world’s most succulent squash.”) As a result of the construction of luffa holds onto moisture higher than zucchini, it absorbs taste like a sponge. Marinate it, sauté it, and so on.; deal with it such as you would any squash.
Luffa dishes are fashionable in Asian tradition, it’s typically stir fried, and most popularly, served in a dish with eggs. Most frequently handled like eggplant, luffa is complemented by parmesan. It even makes its means into wonderful eating.
Luffa Will get Higher with Maturity
In the event you don’t plan to eat it, you’ll wish to wait till the autumn to reap it, as a result of that’s when luffa transforms into loofah. The squash get fairly giant and dries out. You’ll want to select them earlier than they’re totally dry, as a result of in any other case they’ll get rained through the later half of fall. In the event you preserve them in a dry, ethereal place, and permit them to totally dehydrate, you may crack the arduous outer shell and entry to loofah.
Loofah actually are the perfect kitchen workhorse sponge— a very pure answer that may scrub pots and surfaces. It’s not dangerous within the bathe, both. You possibly can sew it right into a smaller countertop sponge, or go away it complete.
How one can Develop Luffa
Luffa is a prolific vine that requires assist. It’s the perfect trellis vegetable, as a result of hanging luffa are enchanting, and in case you’re in search of a plant that can actually fill out an arch, that is it.
Whereas simple to sprout (cucurbits are accommodating on this means), luffa wants an extended, scorching summer time to actually mature. Seedlings will take over your indoor seed stations with their prolific vines, and so they prefer to seize maintain of assist, however as a tropical plant, they’ll’t go exterior till the soil is at the least 60℉, so don’t rush getting them into the bottom.
Like different cucurbits, luffa are pollinated by bees and wind, and also you’ll have to be cautious to not plant them too near different cucurbits, as they cross pollinate.
By mid-summer, across the time your cucumbers are beginning to present fruit, your luffa ought to do the identical. If you’re harvesting to eat, you received’t wish to allow them to get larger than 4 to 6 inches. In the event you plan to reap them for loofah, then you definitely do completely nothing besides allow them to develop.
How one can Harvest Luffa
By the top of the summer time, you need to have quite a lot of hanging luffa. The steadiness you’ll attempt to strike is to depart them on the vine so long as doable to allow them to dry out, however not so lengthy they get rained on on a regular basis, which is able to smash them with mildew.
If you harvest them, you may cling them in entrance of a fan or in a pleasant cool, breezy house, and allow them to proceed to dry out.
As soon as they’re fully, totally dry, you may crack open the pores and skin and peel it off. Inside, you’ll expose the spongy-textured guts, which is what you’ll acknowledge as loofah. You need to use it as is, or break it down into smaller items. Dried loofah preserve for a very very long time, make nice items, and assist make your house and physique (sustainably) clear.