I have purchased an occasional loofah at the health food store and I always thought it was a sort of coral or sea anemone. But thanks to Nancy Ehrlich’s latest garden adventure, I now know the loofah is a member of the cucumber family. And it is currently growing on a vigorous tropical vine with dark green leaves and buttery yellow flowers in the Westbury Community Garden!
The vine is so vigorous that some garden members voiced concerns, and Nancy jokes, “If I go missing, check the loofahs!” This vibrant green wall with bright flowers also provides a scenic spot for Nancy to enjoy sipping morning coffee with friends in the garden.
The small, young loofah fruit is tender and can be found in Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. The larger, mature fruit is too tough to be edible and it is dried, peeled, cleaned and used to make the sponge.
This year, Nancy and her daughter will pair their sponges with homemade soaps and create holiday gift baskets for friends and family. Last year in her garden plot, Nancy grew gourds that she and her daughter painted and made into birdhouses and decorations for holiday gifts. What a great way to connect community, garden, family and holiday traditions!
In addition to being made into sponges, the versatile loofah has other fun uses, such as loofah lamps, loofah plant pots and for those of you who can’t decide what to be for Halloween, presenting the loofah costume (see: wikihow.com – how to make a loofah costume). Just in time!