A Plastic-Free Bathroom
The luffa is a bathroom staple that has stood the test of time, with generations scrubbing themselves down in showers around the globe.
The luffa plant, as well as keeping us buffed, is helping us become plastic-free in our bathrooms. You probably would have seen a version at your local health-store or eco-friendly boutique, but have you ever thought about growing your own?
Luffas belong to the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family, along with their somewhat distant cousins, squashes, watermelons, cucumbers, melons, and the hard-shelled gourds. It is often mistakenly thought of as something that comes from the sea, as the dried flesh of the plant has fibrous-like properties similar in appearance to sea sponges.
Two varieties of Luffa can be grown: Luffa aegyptiaca (the angled luffa that has ridges running along the length of the skin) or Luffa cyclindrica (the smooth luffa, which has a more rounded appearance). Both plants are vigorous annual vines with lovely, vibrant yellow flowers. Being a vine, they can be used as a cover for outside pergolas, and better still, their fruit is similar in taste to squash and can be used in salads and other dishes.
Luffa plants like a well-drained but moist soil, which is full of plenty of organic compost matter.
They need a lot of room to roam or a sturdy trellis over which to climb. As they need plenty of sun in order to ripen, they are more suited to warmer climate growing areas.
It is best to start the seeds off in pots in a greenhouse or inside a few weeks before planting time; once the warm weather settles in, plant them in a sunny position.
Processing your luffa plant
After your plant has matured and begins to bear fruit, they are ready to harvest. It best to leave the fruit for as long as possible to get a more fibrous luffa, but when the green skin has turned dark yellow or brown and begins to separate from the flesh, it is ready to process.
- Begin by peeling off the tough outer layer of skin; you may need to squeeze the fruit until cracks appear, and you can then continue to peel away the skin.
- Remove the seeds and spread them out onto some wet towels. (Dry them out at room temperature and save them for planting next year.)
- Thoroughly wash the sponge to get the sap out by soaking in some warm soapy water.
- Dry the sponge out. It’s best to do this in the sun, turning frequently until completely dry.
Now you’re ready to use your luffa as you wish!
You can leave your luffa whole or cut it into smaller sections for scrub pads. If you cut it in half lengthwise, you can make your own cloth-backed washer. Alternatively, cut it on a cross-section for scrub pads, which can also be made into soap bars.
This article was originally published in Issue 20 of Junkies.