what's that growing in the garden? your next bath sponge

 not a loofah. image: your 'local' won't name it here crap-filled store.

not a loofah. image: your 'local' won't name it here crap-filled store.

loofah. it grows. like a plant. because it is one. and it's not only better for your skin than those yucky plastic things found in your 'local' won't name it here crap-filled store, it's way better for the environment. not only is loofah not made in overseas factories using slave labor, it will not end up in some stupid landfill after 30 days of use to break down over, say the next 400 years.  because it's a plant, it is 100% compostable. yes. once it reaches its prime, you can toss it in your compost bin, and go pick your next one from the garden. walk with me, talk with me... we're harvesting luffa (proper plant name)!

first things first: this is not my garden. but i've been granted what we'll call "privileges" here. lol. where in exchange for a little help with weeding and watering, i can help myself to much of the abundance growing just outside my window. and over the past few days, i've been eyeing certain cucumber/zucchini looking vines that appear to be a 'lil out of control - moving towards the edible garden (and y'all know how i feel about food!). so, i'm keeping a close eye on this here patch... mostly because i've been asked to clear it a bit. but whatever.

                                                                                                 luffa vines. taking over the garden...

                                                                                                luffa vines. taking over the garden...

despite it being a bit overgrown and all over the place, it's still a relatively easy plant to care for. and while it's on the verge of providing too much ground cover, which, if we're not careful, will slow down coming spring sprouts... i still ain't mad at it. doesn't take away from it's amazingness as a plant, imho. so. there's. that. but. i don't want to pull all of the luffa, either. yes. there are tons. and yes. more will grow. but there's only one thing that i love as much as food - and that's a nice hot bath! 

so instead of tossing them all, we agreed to "relocate" the vines, to make them a bit more manageable. and in the process, i  "rescued" a few to share with you guys a little bit about this magical little plant...

 flowering...

flowering...

it grows on trees. sort of. it's a vine. so if you were to properly construct a food forest, running these vines around your trees - it would grow on trees. ha!

luffa require almost six months of warm weather to grow, don't handle frost well, and are their best in usda zones 6 and above (7, from seed). but i'm told they do fine in containers... so...

it's part of the cucumber family. which is why it looks so similar. edible when young. but only when young! beyond that, i can't imagine what it would be like biting into fibers that easily exfoliate dead skin... but that's just me.

 almost harvest ready...

almost harvest ready...

they grow quite large. a full-grown and ready-to-harvest loofah is about a foot long. much different than what you see in stores.

once harvested, the skin is peeled back (immediately) to reveal the shower scrubby goodness. then it is rinsed and squeezed until the juice (a brownish sort of soapy without suds stuff that is probably the most nondescript liquid i've ever encountered) is out of it, then set in the sun for drying. 

when completely dry, the de-seeding begins! which is really just cutting it open and shaking the seeds loose. that's pretty much it. i mean, a few may get caught up in the coarse fibers, but with a little patience (or a lot - whatever you're working with), they'll all eventually come out. and. once you remove all the seeds, you might want to plant a few more, because you'll never have to buy another sponge! ever! every time you need a new one, simply cut the luffa into loofah (ha!) and get your scrub on...

now get your wine and candles... it's bath time, bella (or bro)!

(note: loofahs have received a little bad press in recent times, due to possible bacteria build up. just gonna say that anything you use in a shower will hold bacteria, should you fail to keep it clean and dry. so keep your loofah clean. keep it dry. toss it in the compost when it starts to smell a little funky/turn dark brown. but do not, i repeat, do not be scared off by articles that were probably paid for by the plastic lobby. okay. i just made up the plastic lobby (or did i?). but. natural is better than imitation. every. time. and i just cannot support an idea that using something that is disposable, as recommended in the above linked hp article, is better all around than something sustainably harvested and composted. but. that's just me. being right. :)  ha!)