Thinking about starting some Luffa (Loofah) seeds again for the coming season. Luffa is a genus of tropical and subtropical vines in the Cucurbitaceae (cucumber) family. After years of growing these fascinating plants for their sponges, the culinary aspects are becoming more attractive and intriguing.
If you want to grow Luffa plants for sponges in southern New England, they take over 100 days to mature so it's a good idea to start them off indoors about three weeks before the last spring frost date (May 15th) so you have the best chance to harvest them before a potential cold snap or frost in the fall.
Sponges are not the only reason to grow Luffa plants. The fruit of the two species L. aegyptiaca and L. acutangula is cultivated and eaten as a vegetable which is said to have a taste resembling zucchini. And used as a culinary plant, the nutritional and health benefits are pretty amazing. The other great news is you can reap the benefits of the edible young fruit during the season without fretting over the threat of an early frost.
So what are the health benefits? Luffa fruit contains various antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, nutrients and lipids including Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C, E & K, Calcium, Carbohydrate, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phenolic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Selenium, Sodium, Zinc, and Total dietary fiber.
As a medicinal, Luffa has cerebroprotective, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, antihyperlipidemic, antidiabetic and cancer fighting properties. It is said to prevent and treat eye ailments, treat diabetes, anemia, skin issues and muscle pain, treat and protect brain function, help to reduce the recurrences of migraines, reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides t0 lower the chances of cardiovascular disease, and reduce the pain of arthritis. It is also used to enhance the immune system, detoxify the body, and for weight loss.
Though it is strange to ponder eating something so fibrous you can exfoliate your skin with it, a quick search quickly retrieves many tasty looking recipes using young luffa fruit. All the more reason to give it a go - and of course, organically!
sources: https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/luffa/ http://www.superfoods.news/2017-07-29-luffa-sources-health-benefits-nutrients-uses-and-constituents-at-naturalpedia-com.html