Synonym: Luffa cylindrical
Sponge gourd, dishcloth, luffa gourd, Egyptian cucumber
These bright, sunny flowers are now blooming along the Kitchen Garden fence. These wonderful gourds thrive in hot, wet environments. Depending on the gardener, these plants may be grown for their striking yellow flowers, to be eaten, or for their sponge-like fibers. Depending on the cultivar and method of growing these plants can be two to seven feet tall (they may reach seven feet if grown on an arbor of sufficient height).
Typically taking ninety days to mature, when direct-sown, this gourd requires full sun and tends to do best when grown on an arbor or fence. The flowers are a brilliant shade of yellow. Male flowers tend to grow in clusters, while female flowers tend to grow solitarily. It should also be noted that Luffa aegyptiaca is cold-sensitive, and will die if it is exposed to frost. Additional best practices would be to rotate the planting area of the Cucurbitaceae family in order to minimize the pests and diseases that may afflict this family.
If the gourds of Luffa aegyptiaca are harvested young, they may be prepared in a similar way to young zucchini, okra, or summer squash. However, if left on the vine, sponge gourds’ skin will turn dark in color and dry up. Mature gourds can be up to two feet in size depending upon the cultivar you choose to grow. At this point hey may be harvested and turned into sponges, by removing the skin as well as the seeds. Once peeled, deseeded, and cleaned up the sponges can be used as an exfoliating scrub, to clean grout, and are an option for cleaning delicate surfaces such as porcelain.
This blog post was written by Brendan Huggins, Director of Horticulture and photographed by Erica Smith, Director of Marketing.