Today was a big day nine months in the making. Today we picked and processed the loofah sponges that we planted back in April.
Anyone who wants seeds to plant their own loofahs next summer should be in touch.
I want to turn Ramat Beit Shemesh into the Loofah Capital of the World!
(Yes, I tend to dream big)
What is a Loofah?
A loofah plant is related to cucumbers and zucchinis, producing similar shaped fruit. If you leave them on the vine, they dry out and the inside turns into a sponge.
I use loofah sponges for dish-washing and they are fantastic. With so many green cleaning solutions, you may have to compromise on effectiveness, compared to their petroleum-based counterparts. But loofah sponges not only work just as well as synthetic sponges, they even have two big advantages:
1. they never get smelly or slimy
2. you can use them freely on Shabbos because they don’t hold water, so no fear of squeezing
When they’re worn out, I just toss them in the compost or under a bush in the garden.
You can buy them at wholefood or organic-type stores.
Or grown your own. Here’s how:
How to Grow Loofah Sponges in Israel
Loofahs are climbing vines that grow very long – ours reached 15 meters. So plant your loofah vine in a sunny position where it will have a large tree, fence or pergola to climb.
Start the seeds when the nights are warm. In Israel, that is usually no earlier than April. If you start the seeds in a container, like I did, make sure to be careful when you transplant them. They hate having their roots disturbed.
They can be slow to sprout but once they’re established they grow really fast – up to 15 centimeters a day!
Flowers should appear within two months. You need both male and female flowers for fruit to set.
Loofahs are fussy and fickle and sometimes you have only females and sometimes only male. We prayed a lot and finally in October we had both males and females at the same time. The shidduch moved very quickly from there – thanks to the help of our matchmaking bees!
Loofahs need steady water and rich soil. We use drip irrigation and added compost at least twice.
When to Pick Loofahs?
Generally the rule is you pick when the plant is dying back. Here in Israel, that might not happen until well into December.
The long loofah vines may climb to unreachable places, but if you pull the whole dead vine down, you should get all the fruit.
Peel, shake out the seeds and dry.
Then your homegrown loofahs are ready for use!
My name is Naomi and this is my tiny little farm in the heart of the rapidly growing city of Beit Shemesh, Israel. I enjoy growing, making and processing as much of my families own food and household essentials as possible, while nurturing a biodiverse ecosystem filled with beauty and life.