The Turn of the Luffa: From Gourd to Sponge

Reader Contribution by Ingrid Butler
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A small fraction of the luffa, neatly gathered in a bucket. Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fall has come to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS garden, and with that, the Ridged Luffa Gourds, whose seeds were donated by the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, have finally reached maturity. Eager to turn these dried, ridged gourds into the biodegradable, earth-friendly sponges we all adore, we set to harvesting them with the conviction that this endeavor would only take a few minutes.

We thought wrong.

Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

It took us 30 minutes to harvest this unassumingly prolific gourd: As we cleared away the remaining luffa vines to make room for our fall garden, we kept finding more luffa squirreled away under dense leaves, dangling from the spidery vines. Our friendly rabbit visitor had made no impact on the luffa gourds, despite its love for the plant’s leaves!

Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

Harvesting the gourds themselves was fairly simple when we used gardening gloves sufficient to protect our skin from the dry, rough ridges of the luffa.

We cleared the leaves and vines from the garden and put them into our newly constructed double compost bin. Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

We quickly found that we had underestimated the number of buckets we’d need to bring the luffa gourds to the office for processing.

Not pictured: still more luffa. Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

We scavenged a leftover tarp and piled the remaining gourds onto it; even so, it was a perilous journey back to the office! Even with two people carrying it, the pile of luffa was so high that it seemed ready to topple at any moment.

Photo by Ingrid Butler

Back at the office, it took a few tries to figure out the optimal method of processing the luffa, but we eventually ended up with a fibrous sponge.

 Photo by Ingrid Butler

And if you’re not quite sold yet on the luffa as a natural sponge, they make fantastic, earth-friendly pet chew toys.

More on gourds and luffa:

More on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Community Garden:

Want to grow a garden as lush as ours? Find our go-to products for garden maintenance, harvesting, and more at in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Garden Shed.

If you’d like to be a MOTHER EARTH NEWS Community Garden sponsor, contact Brenda Escalante.

Thank you to our sponsorsGarden In MinutesNeptune’s HarvestCoast of MaineSouthern Exposure Seed ExchangeMeadow CreatureLehman’s,MOTHER EARTH NEWS StoreHappy Leaf LEDBerry Hill Irrigation.


Beautiful Luffa will change the way you see and use these unique vegetables. So much more than bath scrubbers, luffas can be used as a fiber for sewing, an ingredient in the kitchen, and more! With author Janice Cox’s help, you’ll learn everything you need to know about growing and using these unusual plants. Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368