One of the most common Asian and African vegetables must be the Sponge gourd. There are two varieties of the Sponge gourd, one is ridged (Luffa acutangula) and the other one that I grow (Luffa cylindrica or Luffa aegyptiaca) has a smooth outer skin.The title of my post refers to the way these vines bear the fruit and also threaten to take over its immediate surroundings. Like ledges, walls, posts, and so on. There’s just one word for them. Prolific! The tender fruit is consumed as a vegetable. On maturity the gourds can be left to dry and then used as a kitchen or bath sponge.
Around this time of the year it’s a common sight to see the vines take over trees and roofs, fences and poles. The bright yellow flowers look lovely in the mornings when they’re fully open and attract several pollinators. By late afternoon the flowers close.
I’ve never thought of a tendril as life-threatening but this is what I saw on my gourd vine last year. I’ve used this photo in one of my earlier posts. An unlucky dragonfly must have been in the way when the tendril was reaching out for support.
The blooms attract all kinds of bugs. Bees, wasps, skippers and tiny beetles are usually seen on them.
With all the bugs around which predator lurks betwixt the leaves? The common garden lizard never had it so good!!
When the fruit becomes fully mature, the skin hardens up and turns brown. It can be easily peeled and underneath is the loofah (also spelt as luffa and lufah) that we all recognize. By this time the seeds also turn black and a vigorous shake of the dried vegetable ensures that most of the seeds fall o0ff. They can be dried and then stored for the next year’s planting.
All along I had thought that the loofah was only used in the kitchen and the bathroom but I found out on Wiki that they are also used to make the soles of beach sandals. The term is also used to describe synthetic bath tools that serve the same purpose. In Paraguay, panels are made out of loofah combined with other vegetable matter and recycled plastic. They are then used to create furniture and construct houses.
Other names of this particular gourd are: Smooth loofah, Egyptian loofah, and Dishrag gourd.