For the third autumn in a row I am pleased to be harvesting my shower sponge for next year. Now I know that must sound like a strange statement but it’s true. Many people are surprised when they find out I grow my own Luffa sponges. “Don’t those come from the sea?”, is the standard question to which I respond that the Luffa is a vegetable you can grow in your very own garden.
This annual requires a long growing season of frost free weather. But for those of you in colder climates it is possible to start seedlings indoors and then transplant them outside allowing you to grow your own sponges. The vine can grow to great lengths producing beautiful yellow flowers all summer. Next spring I will be sure to remind you to start your sponges. Right now though I am focused on the harvest. I almost waited too late to get my Luffa started this spring so I was lucky to get a hand full of mature sponges. This one grew right outside my bedroom window.
I pick the fruit just after the first frost kills the vine. Next I peel off the outer skin.
Then comes the process of “milking” the sponge- squeezing it repeatedly from the middle towards the ends in an attempt to remove the fleshy substance inside. Plenty of seeds will come out as well.
I set aside some of the seeds from my best sponges for next year. If a sponge is discolored I soak it for 5 minutes in warm water with a little bleach. Add a length of hemp rope if you like to hang up your shower sponge. A large crop can yield quite a few Christmas gift sure to have your friends and family talking. Try growing your own Luffa sponge next year.