Luffa aegyptiaca

Luffa aegyptiaca

Luffa aegyptiaca or sponge cucumber is an annual climbing or creeping plant from the family of Cucurbitaceae or cucumber-like plants.

The fruit is edible when young but is best known as the inside of the ripe fruit that can be used as a sponge (loofah). This sponge is best known in Europe as a sponge for personal hygiene but can also be used for washing dishes and especially to scrub pans.

Fun to grow yourself because, like most of the Cucurbitaceae, the plant becomes very large (up to 9 m) and quickly covers any support with long stems and fairly large leaves.

Description:

Luffa aegyptiaca is an annual vine that quickly covers any support it finds. When it finds no support it crawls along the ground.

The leaves are large and lobed with silvery spots on the top.

The yellow, striking flowers measuring 5-7.5 cm in diameter and have five petals.

The fruit is green, up to 60 cm long and 7.5 cm in diameter. It is cylindrical and smooth and slightly wider at the tip. Young fruits are small and looks like okra or cucumber. On older fruits, the outer shell eventually turns brown and papery.

Use:

  • food: young, unripe fruits are eaten as a vegetable
  • personal hygiene: a sponge for the bath or shower
  • household: dish washing, scrub

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Climbing okra, dishcloth gourd, dishrag gourd, loofa, loofah, luffa, rag gourd, smooth loofah, smooth luffa, sponge gourd, sponge luffa, vegetable sponge

Synonyms:

Luffa aegyptiaca (is not a synonym but a typo), Luffa cylindrica

Etymology:

Luffa: from the Egyptian Arabic word loofah, the Arabic name of the plant
Aegyptiaca: means ‘from Egypt’

Luffa aegyptiaca flower

Luffa aegyptiaca flower

Origin:

Tropical Africa or Asia: the exact origin has not be determined. It is now grown throughout the tropics as a vegetable and a sponge.

Habitat:

Disturbed moist areas

Frost resistance:

USDA zone 10-11

Annual plant elsewhere

Care:

Soil:

Undemanding

Location:

Full sun

Water:

Needs to be watered regularly

Fertilizer:

Since this is a very strong grower, provide a good layer of organic fertilizer at the bottom of the planting hole and give universal liquid fertilizer weekly when watering

Repotting:

When the pot is too small.

Loofah

Loofah

Propagation:

Seed

Sowing Instructions:

  • soak 1 day (optional)
  • plant at 2 cm depth in a moist substrate
  • cover the pot to retain moisture
  • 20-25 °C
  • germination time: a few days

The plant needs three months of warm weather to produce the edible, immature fruit and four months to produce the ripe fruit that can be used as a sponge. If you live in an area with frost, you should sow indoors around the last frost and put the plant outside when the temperature is noticeably higher.

Image sources

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