Home grown luffa/loufa sponges make great Christmas presents.
Sometimes known as sponge gourd, the luffa (or loufa) is probably best know for the bath sponges that are made from its mature fruit. In some parts of the world, however, luffas are equally prized as a vegetable, when they are braised or cooked in curries by Asians, Chinese and Thais.
This variety of luffa grows up to 40cm long and about 12 diameter when fully mature, but at this point they are unedible as they have the inner network of tough fibres which makes them good sponges. To be use in the kitchen, the fruit should be harvested when they are 20 cm long when they have a soft puffy, texture. The plants are heat lovers and must be grown in a tunnel or greenhouse, however they are vigorous growers and will take over whatever structure they are grown in shading out any other crop grown near by.
To make a sponge bath the fruit must be allowed to mature fully on the plant, it is even advantageous to allow them to start "rotting" on the vine a little. After picking (the fruit stalks are strong and the fruit will not fall off) the fruit must be allowed to rot down. The quickest way is to keep them in a trough of water. Once the skin is so rotted it comes off easily, simply peel it off to reveal the fibrous sponge inside. Allow the sponge to dry, then shake the seeds out, and you have your luffa. If you want a pure white bath sponge a few minutes soaking in dilute bleech will do the job. They make wonderful Christmas presents.
Please note: The seed needs a temperature of 27˚C to germinate, even then they are slow to emerge and come up erratically (so be patient).
Approximate number of seeds per pack: 8