It’s almost that time of year again! The time right before the first frost… when you are probably scrambling around trying to get in all the squash leftover in the garden, cut any herbs that may not last through the winter and time to harvest the luffas.
So, you’ve gone through the rigorous task of growing luffas. Now, what do you do with them? How do you harvest them, and once harvested, then what? Exactly the question we asked ourselves when we had over 40 luffas last year. FORTY. It was a bit overwhelming. When we had a harvest of 4-5 the year before, it was much more manageable, but last year, I’ll admit, I made some mistakes in the harvesting process.
If you read our Part 1 of the luffa saga- the actual growing of them- then hopefully, you have reached this Fall with long, lush vines covered in large, beautiful leaves, some yellow flowers and… some luffa gourds!
Some of your luffas may have already dried out. (Some may even have already molded… yuck!) But don’t fear! The dried luffas are actually much easier to shuck and deseed than the green luffas although the green luffas tend to have very clean sponge on the inside while the dried/molded sponges will need to go through a vinegar or bleach (1:2 with water) bath.
When to Harvest
Before your first frost! We let our luffas stay on the vine as long as possible which usual means into late October for us. We even get some late stragglers who come along and give us some small sponges towards the end of the season. It doesn’t matter what they look like, you’ll have to get them off the vine and inside a dry, frost-protected area if you’d like to use them. A frost won’t completely ruin an already dried luffa, but it will turn your green luffas to mush and render the sponge inside useless.
How To Harvest
- The easy part- ripping down the vine and cutting the luffas off. Easy… if your luffa plant hasn’t grown 50 feet up into a tree and requires some climbing to harvest. You may not be able to reach all of them, but if you had a prolific vine, it’s no matter.
- Once you get the luffas, separate the dried, tan ones from the green ones. There’s a clear difference in the two.
- I like to start on my dried ones first. Each luffa has a series of threads around the gourd. Once you find the thread and pull it off, the skin of the luffa just flakes off with a little assistance. Then, shake out the black seeds into a container and save to plant next year! If your sponge is dirty or a little moldy, now’s the time to soak it in the vinegar or bleach solution. It may not become a perfectly, cream sponge again, but it will be safe to use as long as you can tell that the mold was eradicated.
- For the green luffas… it’s a bit tougher and the seeds will not be viable to plant the next year, but the sponges (if fully developed) tend to come out a perfect, cream color, instantly clean and ready to use as soon as the dry. The best way to remove the skin from the sponge is to stomp on it. Yes, I said stomp. It won’t hurt your sponge. It helps to break up the skin. You’ll still have the hard task of removing the skin, but take it from me and my bloody fingers last year when I forgot this trick…. just stomp on it. From there, you’ll have to hose out all the sap and undeveloped seeds. The sap is slimy… but a jet powered hose stream does the trick after a few rinse out and squeezes.
- Let them dry. Whether you’ve soaked them or rinsed them, now’s the time to put them in a safe, dry spot to dry.
Using Your Luffas
When dried, your luffas can be used in a number of ways! You can leave the sponges whole and use them to scrub countertops or dishes. You can cut them into segments and use them as a sponge for yourself in the shower. You can cut them into discs and insert them into homemade soaps. There are so many possibilities! We’ve tried all of those, but our favorite way to use them is in the shower. They give your skin a wonderful exfoliation, resulting silky, soft skin every time. Once the sponge looks a little worn or gets a little moldy, you can either soak it in a vinegar or bleach bath, let dry and reuse or you can toss and move onto to your next one.
People are amazed when you gift them sponges that you literally grew in your backyard, and how cool is it that you get to actually use these majestic gourds on a daily basis. It may seem like a lot of work to grow and harvest your luffas, but it’s a lot of fun too!