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U

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Where to start? Well, There are some recommendations to prune the vine of laterals, and others say to keep the first 4 good looking laterals and prune everything else. I don't prune anything. Or do much of anything else except make sure that for the most part they're off the ground.Yet, they do good. In the past, my experience has been that each plant will produce quite a few loofa if left alone. About 20 years ago I read that you can eat the young ones, but they tasted horrid, so I never finished the first one, and haven't tried again.

So, the first picture is a solitary loofa that I planted and has spread 70 ft, plus 8 ft from the ground to the wire, and another 15 ft, more or less, up the tree on the right side of the picture. So, 93 ft, at last measure. I feel positive that it'll end up at least 100 ft, but thats from one end of one lateral th the other end of another lateral. Still, a hundred ft of growth since sometime in June, when it finally started growing.



OK, here is the male flower. It grows as a cluster, and they open one at a time. There are about 30 flowers per cluster, so there will be one open almost daily for about 30 days. There are a whole lot of male clusters, and they start weeks before the females even form. So, if you ever mess with loofa, you'll be freaking out at first.



Here is a tiny female, at least a week from flowering. Bad picture, I know, but the rest of the pics with tiny ones are even worse.



Lot of males, growing on the side of the overhang. I guess tthey're hoping that when the wind blows, it'll blow their pollen on some open female. Most of the time, the males are on a stem, higher than the rest of the plant, so that when pollen falls, it'll drift around and have a better chance of finding a female.



Here is a female just a few days away from opening her flower. Note a larger, already pollinated and growing fruit behind her.



Here is one with her flower open. The loofah gets to be 4 inches or so long before tthe flower even opens for pollination. If they don't get pollinated, they'll rot off. The flower is only open one day, so there has to be a male closeby, some busy insects, or else I'll do it by hand.



Here are 3 loofa, in stages of growth, hanging out of a tree. You can see some flowers in the picture, I've seen as many as 7 females in a row like that, one at every leaf node. I hope nature would stop them from all pollinating though. These things get huge. 24" long and 5" diameter. Heavy while they're live, they dry out to be the lightweight sponges that you see at the store in gift packs and such.



This one is about a foot long now, there's a 5 dollar bill(dollar bills are 6 1/4" long, incidentally, in case you ever need to measure anything and don't have a ruler) for comparison. The vine grew up inside some old shelves I had behind the barn.

 
U

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Here's a nice picture of the end of the garden, Note that I'm in the woods. Loofah vine is on the right on a wire, and on the left is some butterbeans growing like ivy. I've had them get to 25 ft, too. In the middle is a chair where I occasionally loofaround.



Last one(for now) this is a closeup of ground cherries. The husk turns brown and the fruit, with husk falls on the ground when completely ripe. They taste like pecan and pineapple. Really prolific, fun to eat.

 

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Zong that is some awesomeness you got going on there. Wish I had the clime for loofahs Alas, the cold temps keep some things out of the north (along with those poisonous snakes you got down there).

Very good to see you posting here again. I hope you make it a habit;)
 
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I had no idea loofa vines were so prolific -- sort of like kudzu with benefits. Do you sell seed? Or the dried out loofas with seed still inside?
 
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Yeah, they'll do good in Texas. Loofa need at least 6 months. You can cut it a month by starting them inside 6 weeks before you set them outside. Just like tomatoes or something.

I expect I'll just give anybody seeds that wants them, but first frost around here is around October 31, and then they'll need a few weeks to dry out. I'll save 20 or so loofa for us to use, and will get rid of the rest some way or another. Gifts and such, I don't know. Yet. Last time I grew them, I had a back porch full of loofah, must have been a couple hundred of them!
 

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Never seen butterbeans trellised up like that. Neat. And a ground cherry tastes like pecans and pineapple? If I live to have another garden, I'd like to try some of those. Thanks for sharing the pics and the insights.
 
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Tried to grow these in Alabama..now I know what I did wrong !!!!!!!!!

Think I'll try again...what do they look like when ready to pick????
 

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When I grew loofah as one of our cash crops in the 1990s I used 10 foot diameter pig wire rings to plant about 100 plants and yielded around 800 marketable gourds for scrubber use that I could sell to a local boutique vendor for a buck a piece who made soap on a rope type lathering scrubbers with a foofoo scent she sold for about $5 apiece.

Now I just toss a few seeds around one ring and harvest a few gourds for dish rag and bath scrub use and to give to my gf.

The hardest part I found about growing loofah as a cash crop was trying to avoid picking too many of the young ones for cooking use.

Now as long as I only leave 10 or 20 to go to maturity and seed I can comfortably harvest as many young ones as I want to for meals.
 

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Thanks for sharing! I didn't think they were that hardy.

Now what I want to know is when it the jolly green giant coming to harvest them and the butter beans? :)
 

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So that's what ground cherries look like! I've seen it here before but never knew what it was.
I'd like to try loofahs but it appears I wouldn't have the room.
 
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A lot of the ground cherry seed sellers were confusing the ground cherry(Physalis peruviana) with tomatillos(Physalis philadelphica). I grow both, there is absolutely no resemblance in taste between then, nor between either if them and the tomato. I'm going to save at least a thousand or so seeds, and in a couple months will give anybody that wants them loofa seeds and/or ground cherry seeds.

Lesley, when the loofa are ready to pick for the sponge, they start turning brown and get lighter. Anytime the skin feels loose, they're ready to get. In the past, I just waited til first frost, and got them all up, even though some of them are not mature. If you try to peel a couple of them and they just won't peel, I suppose you can leave them hanging on the vine and see if they fry any further. Or, just feed them to the chickens. There shoud be more dry ones than I'll ever need.

Leslie, the snakes here aren't poisonous as long as you parboil them before you fry them.
 

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Neat, Zong; You've shed a lot of light on things I've wondered about. Loofa made a splash a few years back and then we never heard of them again. As I recall they made pretty decent pot-scrubbers. Ground cherries don't exist here so far as I know.

Now; Shrek, please explain your method of preparing young loofa; Zong says it is bad, you say you eat it. Can you tell us what you do with them?
 

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I grew a luffa plant once, it took over a big chunk of garden, had huge 4" blooms and never had a gourd on it. I planred out of the same seed pkg. the next year and every thing was normal.
 

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Neat, Zong; You've shed a lot of light on things I've wondered about. Loofa made a splash a few years back and then we never heard of them again. As I recall they made pretty decent pot-scrubbers. Ground cherries don't exist here so far as I know.

Now; Shrek, please explain your method of preparing young loofa; Zong says it is bad, you say you eat it. Can you tell us what you do with them?
I prefer the spined loofah for both dishrags/ exfoliate bath scrubbers and eating over the smooth loofah which is really only suitable for skinning and cutting into round bath scrubbers.

Young spine loofah up to about 4 inches long can be cooked as any squash dish.
Spined loofah allowed to nature can be sewn into pad scrubbers using the spine strings as thread and a sailcloth needle to sew two loofah dishrags into a soap pocket scrubber.
 

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"Up to four inches long" may be the key. Pat was always on my case about bringing her squash that were too big. Right now Barb and I have 8 inch yellow squash in the fridge.
Ox
 

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GF says she thinks the spined luffa are a bit bitter but with proper seasoning the bitterness can easily be reduced and its supposed to be beneficial in reducing blood pressure a bit and boosting immunity to colds from what I have heard.
 
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