The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #6

The loofah experiment: Update 5

I successfully picked, peeled, washed and dried two loofah before the snow started to fall here in Ohio. Sadly, the rest of the loofah didn’t dry out before the temperatures plummeted.

Soon, I’ll unveil the soap that I made with the loofah I was able to harvest. In the meantime, I thought I’d share this video to show what a loofah being peeled looks and sounds like. I’m thinking about using this as an audition piece for a sound effects technician on “The Walking Dead.”

 

The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #5

The loofah soap experiment: Update 5

Isn’t that a lovely picture of dried loofah sponges? I wish I could take credit for growing these but alas, my loofah are still as green as can be.

Green loofah

Well, all of them except for this monstrosity.

Zombie loofah

Apparently someone got too busy and neglected her garden for a few weeks. This is not what I intended when I started this project but I’m not about to let a little setback deter me. In the spirit of Halloween, I’m calling this a zombie loofah. If you or someone you know is a zombie who needs a little exfoliation, drop me a line and this little gem is all yours. After all, zombies deserve smooth skin, too.

Loofah sponges are supposed to dry on the vine but since the weather is getting colder and mine are showing no signs of starting to dry out, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I removed one of the loofah from the vine and enlisted the help of a former Boy Scout to string it up like a Thanksgiving turkey. It is now hanging from a rafter in my garage.

Tying a loofah with string

I’m really itching to make a soap using loofah. For now, all I can do is be patient and let nature take its course.

Did you miss out on some of the loofun? Check out some of the prior installments of the experiment to see loofah baby pictures, wild vine growth or try a new recipe

The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #4

My loofah plant is exceeding all of my expectations for what a plant grown in a shady Ohio yard can achieve. It is the largest plant I have ever grown from seed. I garden for the simple joy of watching plants grow and this plant has been thrilling to watch as it takes over my fire pit, kindling pile and everything else that gets in its way.

Loofah plant

When I planted the seeds earlier this year, I hoped for at least one loofah that would be big enough to dry and use in a soapy creation. At last count, I have nine loofah and the largest currently measures 18 inches!

Loofah

The fruit of the loofah is edible when it is young and tender, before it has developed the exfoliating fibers most people are familiar with. It is similar in texture and taste to zucchini and can be used in any recipe that calls for zucchini. If Bubba had been a loofah farmer instead of a shrimper, he would have said, “You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s uh, loofah-kabobs, loofah creole, loofah gumbo.” You get the idea. (And, I may have seen a certain movie a few too many times.)

Bubba may have found a million different ways to prepare loofah but when it comes to home-grown veggies, I prefer a simple preparation with very few ingredients. I want to experience the flavor and character of the vegetables that I grow. When I cook zucchini, I sauté it with olive oil and a pinch of garlic and then season it with salt and pepper.  That preparation seemed like the easiest choice for my first foray into eating loofah.  The first chance I had, I picked a tiny baby loofah, cut it up into chunks and sautéed it just like I would a zucchini.

Tiny loofah

Four ingredients turned this tiny little vegetable into a tasty appetizer. (And I had fun stomping around the house and pretending I was a giant eating a full sized zucchini that I cut with my giant knife and served on my giant plate. I have an active imagination. Don’t judge.)

Loofah

 

My only regret is that I didn’t pick more so that I could try other recipes like this Thai stir fry called Buab Pud Kai.

Have you seen loofah sold in markets where you live? Have you tried it in a recipe? Tell me all about it in the comments and share your recipes!

 

The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #3

For most of the summer, I’ve been convinced that my loofah plant would never bear fruit. It has been an unusually cool summer and loofah plants need heat. The vines are huge and getting bigger very day. Neighbors, don’t let your cats out. Loofah hungry!

Loofah plant

The plant has been blooming for the last month, but no loofah.

Loofah flower

Then, we had rain and several sunny days in a row and suddenly, loofah!

Loofah

At last count, I have five little loofah growing and dozens of flower buds. If the weather would just warm up, I think I might get at least one loofah that is large enough to dry and work with before the snow starts to fly. I might even get brave and pick a few small ones to eat.

Did you miss the first few installments of the loofah saga? Catch up with them here and here.

The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #2

Where has the time gone? Between prepping for my first Cleveland Bazaar and making more soap to replenish my stock, I almost forgot about posting an update on how my loofah is growing. Looking back on my last update, I can’t believe how much the plant as grown. It went from this sweet little seedling:

Loofah seedling

So cute.

To this Little Shop of Horrors like vine:

Loofah vine

“Feed me!”

I’m not sure how big this vine is going to get, or where it’s going to go, but for now it seems happy to grow up the side of the bird net covering my blackberries.

 

Loofah and blackberry

Don’t get too close to those tendrils!

I’ve read that loofah can have a very long growing season and needs warm temperatures to thrive. We’ve been having an uncharacteristically cool summer so far, so I’m not surprised that it’s mid-July and I’m only now seeing flower buds. Hopefully the temperatures warm up and I get a couple of good sized loofahs by the end of the summer.

Loofah flower bud

Are you growing anything fun in your yard this year? I’d love to hear about your gardening adventures!

The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #1

Earlier this year, I decided to grow my own loofah to use in a loofah soap project. I planted the seeds a few days ago and I’m happy to report they are already growing!

Loofah seedling

 This little guy is the biggest seedling so far.

This was actually my second attempt to start loofah seeds this year. I first planted four loofah seeds in seed-starting medium and none of them sprouted. Boo.

The Ohio weather has gotten better since then, so I took my experiment on the road and planted seeds in a repurposed fire pit we use as a planter. I simply stuck the seeds in the soil and hoped for the best. As you can see from the photo, this method was more successful–healthy seedlings! With all the rain we are getting this spring, I’m optimistic this batch will grow rapidly. I’ll keep you updated!

How about you? Do you start your own seeds for your summer garden? What methods work best for you?

 

 

Welcome to spring and the loofah soap experiment

I don’t know about you, but I am done with winter. Weather-wise, it has been winter since early November here in northern Ohio. By my count, that’s four months. Four months of extreme cold, gross black snow on the sides of the roads, treacherous driving and high heat bills.

I’m over it.

So, I’d like to announce that here on Emmet Street, it is officially spring! And the opening of spring means planning for my vegetable garden. This year, I’m going to attempt to grow loofah. I was as surprised as anyone to learn that loofah is not a sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea. It’s actually a member of the cucumber family. It‘s edible when harvested early, while the fruit is small and green. As the fruit matures, it become fibrous and, from the looks of it, a choking hazard. At the end of the growing season, it’s possible to remove the skin and dry the fibrous insides, making the familiar loofah sponge.

I’ve read that growing loofah in my region of the country is challenging, but not impossible. It has a very long growing season and needs up to six months to mature. I’m up for the challenge. If all goes according to plan, I will start my loofah seeds inside in early April, transplant them into my garden in May, and by September, I should have at least one fully mature loofah to dry.

What will I do with the loofah once it’s dried? Make soap, of course! I’ve made loofah soap before and it was wonderful for scrubbing away dirt.

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My first attempt at loofah soap. It was scented with orange essential oil. 

I’ll post updates of my progress here on the blog throughout the growing, drying and soaping process.

Have you tried growing loofah or any other odd vegetable? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section!