Thursday, November 3, 2016

Harvesting Your Own Loofah Sponges

This is the first year I have grown loofah sponges. I have no idea why I haven't done it before, it was so incredibly easy! Really! All I did was plant them in a plastic pot full of potting soil and put the pot in the mulch next to my fence. (I tried planting directly in the soil, but they didn't like my clay soil.) Here is a picture of some gourds left to harvest.

I think I watered them twice all summer - and we had a hot, dry summer! The only time I touched the plant is when it tried to climb the side of my house. I wanted it to stay on the fence so I pulled it off the house and used a twisty tie to secure it to the fence. I literately did nothing else! I planted three seeds and was blessed with 15 gourds that will make a lot of beautiful sponges! In reading about these sponges, I believe if I payed a bit more attention to them I would have gotten even more gourds. Still, if I can plant it and forget it, and still get 15, I consider it a win! Since it was so easy, I think I will plant more next year!

Fall is here and even though the temperature is still in the low 80's, it is time to start harvesting the sponges. I started with the first few gourds the plants produced. They were starting to yellow and dry out, exactly what you want when harvesting the sponge. 

I read that some people wait until the gourd is completely dry before harvesting. In my opinion, that will make it harder to peel. They are supposed to be easier to peel when still slightly moist. When you slightly squeeze it, you should be able to feel that the outer skin has separated from the sponge. Squeeze a bit harder and you will feel a 'gap' before you feel the sponge. 

Here is a picture of the second one I harvested. The first thing you need to do is to press your nail into the skin to create an opening to start the peel. (As you can see, Molly wanted to help!)

Then just peel the skin off. It does have a bit of a slimy feel to it - that is sap. 

Next, shake all the seeds out of it. I just slapped mine against the patio for the first two, but later on I switched to using a bucket (it is faster - just hit the sponge back and forth against the sides of the bucket.)

Now, it is time to clean it to remove the sap. I washed mine in a bucket with some soap, rinsed well and then let it dry in the sun.

You can find videos on the internet that say to soak the sponge in a bleach solution to get it white. I didn't do that - the sun works just fine! In this picture you can see the first one that dried in the sun (on the left) and the second one that I just finished washing (on the right).

I trimmed off the ends of the first sponge to provide some shape, and to size it for using in the shower. Some of the larger sponges that will be harvested next, I will cut up and use to make soap scrubbies for Christmas gifts! 

Stay tuned for that post later in the month!

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