Grow your own loofa sponges
If you’re looking for an unusual plant to grow this year, try growing your own loofa sponges.
Jeanine Davis is an extension specialist at North Carolina State University. She says the loofa is a member of the gourd family and grown like any other squash. However, the plant needs to climb on a support system - a very sturdy support system.
"I would put up something with wooden posts and maybe some wire for them to climb on. If you do like a lattice-type trellis, those will hold a few plants. But people that try to string them up like they do beans will usually find the loofa will pull them down because they’re really heavy. Think of medium-sized pumpkins hanging on a trellis," says Davis. "They’re going to have that kind of weight before they dry out."
If you don’t want huge loofas loafing around, pick them for the dinner table when they’re about six-inches long. You can eat them like you would any other squash.
Loofas are very sensitive to cold so you do want to harvest them before the first frost. Davis says the sponges are ready when the skins turn a darker green.
"When you can kind of squeeze them and start feeling the flesh separate from the skin, often times at that stage you can pop off the bottom end, the blossom end. And at that point, you can just run your thumb up along the skin and just pop this wet sponge right out of it," she says. "That’s my favorite way to harvest them because it’s really easy."
You can also just let them dry on the vine. They’ll turn brown and you’ll hear the seeds rattling inside. Davis says you’ll have to either soak off the dried skin or roll them on a hard surface to break it off. Once the sponges are out, rinse them off and let them air dry.
The nice thing about growing loofas is that you only need to buy the seeds once. Save the seeds from this year’s plants to grow next year’s sponges.