Luffa Gourds: Grow Your Own Shower Loofah

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Luffa gourds are an incredible vegetable that redefines multi-use! Not only can you eat these gourds, but they double as a useful tool in the shower as well. A mature luffa gourd can be dried out and used as an exfoliating shower sponge? as you can see, the luffa is not your average gourd!

How to Grow Luffa Gourds

Just like every other realm, trends in the gardening world seem to come and go. Every year, there?s at least one trendy veggie that everyone rushes to grow (remember the ?). This year?s trend is one that I can get fully on board with ? luffa gourds!

Great Read: Veggie Garden Remix

The luffa gourd has a lot to offer in terms of usefulness. It?s also fairly easy to grow! Luffa gourds are one of many unusual vegetables highlighted in my friend Niki Jabbour?s wonderful book .

The book is full of different vegetables that most people haven?t grown in their home garden (or even heard of, in some cases) along with tips on how to grow, harvest, and use each of them.

Read on for Niki?s luffa gourd profile, and to learn about 223 other exciting veggies to grow at home.

Note: this post was originally a guest post from Niki, and was updated in March of 2020 to add more information about growing luffa gourds. Quotes used throughout are excerpted from  ? by Niki Jabbour. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

 

Veggie Garden Remix

Luffa Plant Growing Details

Wondering how to grow this amazing plant? Here?s everything you need to know.

A.K.A.: Loofa, dishcloth gourd, Chinese okra, vegetable sponge, Luffa cylindrica, L. acutangula

Days to Maturity: 80?90 days for edible fruits, 110?50 days for sponges

Hails From: South Asia

Varieties to Try: Smooth luffa: ?Dok?, ?Edible Ace?; Ridged luffa (a.k.a.Chinese okra): ?Bonzana?

The Two Types of Luffa Plant

There are two main types of luffa: ridged (Luffa acutangula) and smooth, or common (L. cylindrica).

?Both can be eaten young or allowed to mature for their unusual sponges,? Jabbour said. ?If you can?t decide which type to grow for eating, opt for the ridged luffa, which is generally thought to have superior flavor.?

A mature luffa gourd and two young fruits

 

How to Grow Luffa Gourds

According to Niki, ?These are very ornamental plants, producing clusters of large yellow male and female flowers all summer long. If you give pollination a helping hand (see page 43 of for more details), these will be followed by elongated fruits.

Like most gourds, the vines are vigorous (translation: absolutely ridiculously rampant plants that are trying to take over the world). You have been forewarned. Give them a fence or something very sturdy to climb.?

Niki Jabbour working in the vegetable garden

 

How to Use a Luffa Gourd

To use the luffa gourd as a shower loofah, you need to wait until it?s mature when it becomes quite fibrous. When it?s young and tender, however, you can eat this veggie.

What Does a Luffa Gourd Taste Like?

Niki says: ?The flavor of the young fruits is similar to summer squash, and they can be cooked in the same way: roasted, stir-fried, stuffed, added to curry, or layered with cheese and tomato sauce in a savory parmigiana. You can even eat very young fruits raw!?

If you haven?t tried a luffa gourd before, there are that looked pretty tasty!

When to Harvest Luffa Gourds

Niki recommends picking baby luffa gourds when they are about 2 to 3 inches long if you want to eat them. ?Be sure to harvest them before they reach 6 inches in length, at which point they become fibrous and unpalatable,? she said.

If you want to grow your luffa gourd into a sponge, you?ll want to allow them to mature. This may mean they can get up to two feet in length! If you live in a warmer area, the fruit will ripen and also dry on the vine. However, if you live in a cooler climate like Niki does, she recommends drying indoors.

?In my garden, I harvest the luffas when they are mature and the green skin has turned yellowish and bring them indoors to finish drying (a process that takes 2 to 3 weeks).

Once the skin is brown and hard, use a hammer to crack one end of the fruit and shake out the seeds for future harvests. Then soak the gourds in a pan of water overnight to soften the skin for easy peeling, which reveals the unique spongy interior.

The fruits of the luffa gourd are a tasty treat when picked young, but once they grow longer than 6 inches, eating quality declines and they?re best saved for dried sponges.?

Mature luffa sponges

 

The Loofah Plant

If you have ever heard of someone talking about the loofah plant, you may be a bit confused as to what they are referring to. Surely loofahs don?t just grow on trees, right? They don?t. Loofah plants grow on vines.

Of course, I?m talking about the luffa gourd. It?s commonly referred to as the loofah plant?and for good reason!

Where Does the Word Loofah Come From?

It?s no coincidence that the names ?luffa? and ?loofah? are so similar. The word ?loofah? is an Arabic word that comes from?you guessed it, the loofah plant!

Making Luffa Soap

Luffa sponges can be sliced and added to soap recipes, to add some exfoliation and aesthetics. If you want to try to make your own luffa soap, you can find a tutorial online, or experiment on your own with a .

Here are some gorgeous handmade soaps using luffas from Etsy:

handmade luffa gourd soap

 

slice of luffa in a handmade soap bar
gardeners vegan soap with luffa gourd

So, there you have it. A fascinating, useful vegetable. If you have ample room for climbing vines in your garden, give luffa gourds a try!

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About Niki

 

Niki Jabbour, author of Veggie Garden Remix

Niki Jabbour is the award-winning author of (American Horticultural Society book award), , and She also writes for magazines across North America, including Fine Gardening, Birds & Blooms, Horticulture, and Garden Making. Niki is a popular speaker at shows, garden clubs, conservatories, and events. She regularly appears at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle, Canada Blooms in Toronto, the Boston Flower Show, the Mother Earth News Fairs, and more.

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This DIY hand sanitizer takes only a few ingredients and just minutes to put together. This easy spray sanitizer recipe can be used on both hands and surfaces. 

DIY hand sanitizer in a spray bottle next to a scale

I?ve been seeing a lot of DIY hand sanitizer recipes popping up lately. Many of these are alcohol-based hand sanitizers made with isopropyl alcohol or even vodka.

In the years past, I have researched quite a bit on the proper formulation of sanitizers.  If you?ve seen my and recommendations for handwashing as part of the you?ll know that for years I have been using natural and plant-based soaps and hand sanitizers to keep my hands clean and ward off germs for our family.

And, of course, handwashing has recently been brought into the spotlight.

Thankfully, this has been my regular practice ever since my son started preschool and started coming home with what seems like every virus known to man. It was pretty hard for me not to catch them all with a snuggly and snotty toddler, but once I started being diligent about handwashing and not touching my face with my hands, it reduced the viruses that I caught by about 80%.

It?s also important to note that social distancing, avoiding people who are sick, staying home if you are sick, avoiding unnecessary travel, and using alternative greetings (elbow bumps vs handshakes) and great ways to help stop the spread of viruses.

How to Wash Hands

I know it may seem silly to address the how-to of washing hands, but there?s definitely a right and a wrong way to do it.

First, I always use . You won?t find antibacterial soaps in our house because I want to protect the natural microbial biome on our skin.

Handmade Soap and Nail Brush

Use a Nail Brush

I do however include a nail brush in my hand washing. The hardest area of your hands to clean is underneath your nails. I use like these. I also use a nail brush to hold my soap in the soap dish. This keeps them from sitting in a slimy, gloppy mess and allows the soap to dry and last longer.

I bought a pack of 10 and gave many away as gifts and I have four of them in my home, one in each bathroom, one of the garden sink, and one in the kitchen. Atop each one of these nail brushes is .

How to Dry Your Hands Properly

After my hands have been lathered up and rinsed, I dry them well on a clean towel. During cold and flu season, I keep beside the sink. They can be used once to dry hands then put into a laundry basket and washed before being used again.

Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer

When I?m out and about I use my homemade , a recipe I shared back in 2015. I shake it well every time and apply it liberally to my hands. Then I rub my hands together like I?m washing them and try to wipe them on a napkin or towel. This hand sanitizer does not claim to disinfect or kill viruses but instead to simulate hand-washing when there is no sink nearby.

Hand Sanitizer Stockpiling

Stockpiling of hand sanitizers and other essential supplies was not regulated here in Canada. Of concern to me, is that hand sanitizers containing ingredients that have been identified by the FDA as   are sold out completely in stores because they are being hoarded by people and/or resold at exorbitant prices in secondhand marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook.

I?m concerned about this behaviour for a couple of reasons.

  1. Healthy folks bought far more hand sanitizer than they needed, so now it is not available for those who are in most of the need, like those on the front lines, in healthcare and service, and those most at risk.
  2. These hand sanitizers contain ingredients that are identified as toxic to our bodies. Widespread use of them is not necessarily great for folks. That being said, I do think it?s essential to use these products in healthcare applications where the spread of viruses is a much higher health risk then processing the toxicity out of our systems. Hand sanitizers should be used by all members of the population when visiting hospitals and healthcare facilities, especially where seniors and people who are have health risks are residing.
  3. Killing off 99.9% of all ?germs? does not allow our bodies biomes to encourage the healthy microorganisms that help to protect us in the first place. It leads to the question of what are we opening the door for by killing off everything?

Woman holding a DIY hand sanitizer spray bottle

All of that applied before there was an urgent need to protect the population. But as things have developed so rapidly over the past few weeks, I formulated an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use as a hand and surface spray. For the most part, I will still be hand washing primarily, but when I can?t, I will use this alcohol-based hand sanitizer spray.

This doesn?t mean I will be relying this hand sanitizer to do protect myself and others. Of greater impact, I will be practicing social distancing, avoiding people who are sick, staying home if I become sick, and swapping out handshakes (and hugs) for elbow bumps. I also cancelled the last week of my book tour even though it was within Canada and considered low risk. I feel the best thing I can do now is keep some distance to help .

DIY Hand Sanitizer with Alcohol

Homemade bottle of spray sanitizer on a green and gold napkin on top of a wood table.

Let?s talk about alcohol. The are that hand sanitizer formulation needs to be 60% alcohol in order to be effective. I?ve seen different recommendations that range from 60% to 70% so let?s just use 70% of our baseline to be safe.

This does NOT mean that your formulation needs to contain 70% as an ingredient. It means that 70% of the formulation needs to be alcohol. Vodka will not work in this application because it is only 40% alcohol. I?ve seen some formulations that include 70% isopropyl alcohol as just one ingredient in a formulation, but 70% isopropyl alcohol is 70% alcohol and 30% water (and other additives).

On its own, 70% isopropyl alcohol meets the minimum requirements, but this means you can?t combine it with other ingredients in order to make an effective hand sanitizer spray. To make your own hand sanitizer you need the and then you can add 29% of other ingredients like aloe vera, witch hazel, distilled water, hydrosol, and essential oils.

Is Isopropyl Alcohol Safe?

Isopropyl alcohol is most commonly used for sterilization. I use a small amount when formulating lotions and other skincare products to clean my tools and containers. It can also be used in healthcare situations to clean wounds.

In small amounts, there are usually no health issues however it can be toxic when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and most definitely when ingested. Please DO NOT drink it and if someone has, call medical help immediately. Breathing in the fumes in large amounts can also make you ill.

According to the Skin Deep database, it has a , meaning it is generally a safe ingredient, but it is noted that it can cause skin irritation. Using it on your hands will certainly cause dryness and extended use could cause dermatitis rashes and cracking. So, if you do plan to use a hand sanitizer with Isopropyl alcohol, please do so with caution, and use it sparingly.

Where to Find Alcohol for Sanitizer

Unfortunately, due to stockpiling, there seems to currently be a shortage of isopropyl alcohol as well. You may not currently be able to find it online, but that will hopefully be shortlived.

Try checking convenience stores, medical supply shops, or even a drug store. You can also ask a grocery store or any other shop when their next shipment of alcohol will be in. Some stores will even reserve a reasonable amount for you ? you?ll only need 1 bottle to make several batches of this sanitizer.

How to Make DIY Hand Sanitizer

This is one of the easiest recipes to make. I love that this is a spray sanitizer too ? it makes it much easier to use on surfaces as well as hands.

Before we get to the recipe, a quick disclaimer. All my homemade recipes, including this one, have not been tested by any third party and as such should always be used with caution. I recommend spot testing this formulation before widespread use to make sure there are no adverse reactions. While I always do my best to provide useful information, any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk. This post is not a substitute for medical, legal, or any other professional advice of any kind.

Hand Sanitizer Materials

Tea tree, lavender, and sweet orange essential oils for DIY hand sanitizer

This is what you need to make a 100 ml spray. If you want to make more, you can double the batch and divide into different spray bottles. I like to keep one in my purse and one at home. If you have a diaper bag, you could stash one there as well.

  • 10 ml  or
  • 15 ml
  • 4 drops each of , , and

Weigh Your Materials

Kitchen scale with glass measuring bowl

The only way to get a truly accurate measurement of the ingredients is to weigh them. A is all you need. You?ll find it?s much easier than using measuring cups too.

Make it:

, add all of the ingredients to a .

Screw the lid back on, and then to combine the ingredients, simply shake well. Make sure to give it another vigorous shake each time before you use it as well.

Whenever you use DIY hand sanitizer spray (or any spray sanitizer for your hands), spray your hands so they are fully covered, rub them together, then let them dry.

Spray bottle of homemade hand sanitizer next to a kitchen scale

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Woman holding a DIY hand sanitizer spray bottle

DIY Hand Sanitizer Spray

This DIY hand sanitizer takes only a few ingredients and just minutes to put together. This easy spray sanitizer recipe can be used on both hands and surfaces to keep yourself and others safe. 

Equipment

Supplies

  • 75 ml
  • 10 ml or 10 ml Lavender Hydrosol
  • 15 ml
  • 4 drops
  • 4 drops
  • 4 drops
  • 1
  • 1 100 ml

Instructions

  • Measure all ingredients by using a .
  • Pour all ingredients into the glass spray bottle, using the funnel.
  • Shake well.

Notes

Shake well before using each time. 

 

References

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