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Vanessa Collier method of achieving good looking loofah sponges:

Lissa, for the loofas I just wait until they turn brown on the vine (don't leave them too long). Pick them then break off the bottom knobby bit and give it a bash and shake to get most of the seeds out.  Then I peel the skin off and hose out any left over pulp and seeds.  Lastly I balance it on the washing line to dry in the sun.  I think the trick to not having them brown on the inside must be not leaving them on the vine too long after the skin goes brown Onalee’s Home Grown Seeds
Luffa cylindrica
The vines need a VERY sturdy fence or trellis to grow on, they don’t work as ground cover, because the gourds will discolor the sponge, rot or be misshapen when in contact with the ground. Soak seeds overnight before planting. Plant about ½”- ¾” deep along a fence or other support in full sun in well drained, slightly acidic, tilled soil that has a bit of compost or fertilizer added.

Soil temperature should be at least 73°F and outside low temperature should be no lower than 70°F. If you’re temperatures are not this warm, then you will need to wait until they are or, if your growing season is not long enough to wait, you will need to germinate your seeds in containers with artificial heat and then transplant them outside when temperatures are suitable.

These seeds WILL NOT GERMINATE IF THEY ARE NOT KEPT VERY WARM! The vine requires a long, hot growing season of about 110 days. If you don't have at least four months of warm weather, sow your luffa seeds indoors to give them a head start. Again, you must provide heat, either from a heat mat or lights (putting your seeds on top of the refrigerator in your home is NOT warm enough).

You can plant 5-6 vines together in a ‘hill’, then space down the fence about 20 feet to plant another 5-6. When your plants are up, thin down to the strongest 3 plants. Don’t plant them too thickly or your will reduce your crop – we get more luffa’s when they have more space on the fence than when many are crowded together.

Once you have vines growing, do not fertilize again unless your plants show signs of lack of nutrients (ie: leaves not deep green) or you will have leaves and few gourds. Water liberally during the growing season when they are producing fruits, stop watering once autumn approaches.

Gourds produce separate male and female flowers. Male flowers serve as the pollinator and female flowers bear fruit. The female flower can be distinguished by the presence of the immature fruit at its base. Several male flowers are produced before any female flowers, and the male flowers will drop without setting fruit, so don’t be concerned if you are getting blooms with no fruit at first. In addition, the male flowers are held above the vine on flower stems while the female flowers are down directly on the vine itself (harder to see if your vines are thick).

In autumn, mature gourds will begin to turn yellow then brown and dry. Check plants frequently and remove any dried gourds. These will be yellow/brown and feel light. The outside skin of the gourd should be loose from the inside sponge; if you can’t press the outside skin in and feel it kind of ‘crunch’ or ‘pop’, the luffa is not ready yet. If you harvest them too soon, you will not get sponges and most likely not get any seeds, either. On the other hand, if you wait too long (especially in areas where the growing season is long and the weather remains warm), the seeds within the luffa may start sprouting.

After the first killing frost, remaining gourds can be allowed to continue drying in the field or be
brought inside to dry in a warm, well-ventilated area.  

Do not let dried gourds hang in wet weather forany length of time or the sponges will discolor. If gourds are mature when dried, the skins will beeasy to remove from the sponges. At this stage, the blossom end cap can be broken off, and avascular bundle can be pulled up the side of the gourd like a zipper. The sponge will pop out and be very wet and white.

Prepare the sponge:

Quickly rinse the sponge in water to prevent the plant juices from oxidizing on
the sponge and remove the seeds at this time - the easiest method is to dunk the sponges up and
down in a bucket of water; the seeds will rinse out the holes in the sponge – then just use a sieve
and dip them out of the water. If you’re processing a lot of gourds at a time, change the water
frequently. Make sure you dry the seeds thoroughly before storing for next year. You may rinse the
sponges in a 10% bleach solution to whiten them.

Alternate method to prepare sponge:

  • Cut off the blossom end of the sponge and allow as many seeds to drop out as possible.
  • The skin should be dry and leathery and removable easy, if it needs peeling then this can be done with a knife or potato peeler.
  • Soak the Luffa in water several times, changing the water when it gets too cloudy. Wash in soapy water and soak in hot water for about 3 hours.
  • Bleach in a mild bleach and water solution for 20 minutes, this removes any brown bits and mould from the sponge. Rinse all the bleach away then sun or air dry and store in a cool place.

Luffa gourds can be harvested when they are between 4" and 6" long for eating/cooking. They are
sweet, tasty vegetables that can be stir-fired, sautéed, breaded and fried or cooked with meats just
as you would zucchini squash or okra. It can also be sliced into a salad like cucumber or pickled.

Mature seeds can be roasted for a snack and young flowers and foliage can be cooked as a green.
Also called Chinese Okra (because of its similar taste and texture to okra), it is low in calories. A 3
ounce serving contains only 20 calories and 20 percent of the RDA for vitamin C.

Days to Maturity: 110
Days to emerge: 10-25
Seed depth: ½” Soak 4-5 hours first for faster germination.
Placement: Full Sun; Average soil
Seedling id: Two rather large oval/elongated leaves on each seedling, much like a squash or
When to sow outside: 2-3 weeks after last frost. Soil Temp should be at least 73°F
and air LOW temp should be at least 70° F.

Other notes: Since luffa’s are in the squash family, it is not recommended that they be
planted near other squash or cucumber crops due to the possible cross-pollination.
Luffa’s will get worms in the fruit, just like squash and cucumbers, and worm holes will
discolor the sponge. Luffa’s may be treated with insecticides or insecticidal soap as you
would these other vegetables, if desired.

As insecticide:

The Luffa leaves can be crushed to a paste and made into a spray to deter insects and animals from your gardens, care has to be taken as this really does smell bad.


Below 06/07/11 - home grown loofah - self sown from lord knows where.

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Comment by Lissa on May 10, 2012 at 4:37

What do yours look like Evan? How are they different from the ones in the pic.

I still have green ones on my own vine. I picked one large one by mistake some weeks ago and it's still heavy and green. I'm hoping it eventually turns brown, but I think I've ruined it.

Vanessa Collier (on this site) has great success with her loofahs Evan - might be a good idea to have a chat with her.

Comment by Lissa on July 22, 2011 at 6:00

I must remember to save one of my own big green chokos then Elaine or I might end up with no vine if this one dies off suddenly.

Put some in a slow cooker yesterday with drummies, sauce and other veg. Very nice.

Comment by Lissa on July 22, 2011 at 5:11

I think you might need to talk to the experts about the printer/scanner Paul.

I personally just have a smallish Canon (a good brand) at home that just single sides but it also has the capability to scan and fax.

Once you get into the double siding machines they start to get big and expensive. Depends on what you need it for - if business you can lease one.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 21, 2011 at 9:20
The theory is that Choko is a perennial. It dies down late winter (from memory) and may or may not perk up again during the summer. They are easy enough to start but waiting for them to decide to produce fruit is a test of patience.
Comment by Lissa on July 21, 2011 at 6:14

PS how did you go in the garden competition Paul?


Comment by Lissa on July 21, 2011 at 6:14

I'm not having any problems with mine - still cropping. Maybe the plant is spent and needs replacing with a new one? I don't know what the growing time is for a choko plant - you could do a search perhaps.

The white choko I planted is now coming up also so we'll have to do something about getting you one of those for growing down the track Paul when it starts cropping.

Comment by Anne Gibson on July 20, 2011 at 7:03
Have seeds but haven't planted them yet so thanks for all the great info.
Comment by Lissa on June 15, 2011 at 5:49

So many growing choices Paul :)

Exciting isn't it.

Comment by Lissa on May 28, 2011 at 4:39
Will do Addy, thank you. May try to keep them in the pot until summer - depends on how quick they grow.
Comment by Addy on May 27, 2011 at 14:53
Thanks, Lissa, but I too, have chokos coming out of my ears and giving them away... Re bitter melon - choose a warm sunny spot, so they'll survive winter.

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