Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Did you know that you can grow your own vegetable Loofah (sometimes spelled Luffa)? They are great skin exfoliators and can also be used as a dish scrubber. They grow well in Zones 6 and above.
People often think they are a sponge from the ocean, but they are actually a gourd. They grow on long vines, do great when trellised and are actually related to the cucumber family. They require 150-200 days to reach maturity so they do great in our long growing season. As they grow they have green leaves and yellow flowers and mature in the fall. There are two types, one is smooth and blooms in the morning, the other is ridged and blooms in the evening.
The small Loofah is edible up to 6” and is popular in Indian and Asian dishes. They become too fibrous to enjoy if allowed to grow larger than 6”.
To plant dig a 6” wide and 6” deep trench in full sun. Remove weeds and rocks and add compost. The fruit needs to be kept off the ground and the vine can reach 15’ in length so something sturdy to crawl on such as a fence or trellis is a must.
Plant the seeds every 12” and cover with a half inch of soil. Water regularly, about 1” of water per week. As the plant grows, begin training it toward the fence or trellis. It will twine itself once it is aimed in the right direction.
Fertilize once a month using 10-10-10 fertilizer by side dressing and watering it in.
In the fall the vine will die back. The fruit needs to dry on the vine. Each fruit will turn yellow/brown and get lighter in weight. When completely dry, cut the fruit off leaving about 2” of stem. Place them in a cool spot and allow to dry for another two weeks. The skin will be leathery.
Please contact the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.