I had been searching for good summer crops for our hot humid long Florida summers. Well, Lufa is turning into a bumper crop.
Lufa is a relative of Squash, Zucchini, cucumbers and gourds. The vines, flowers, leaves and fruit look a lot like cucumbers on steroids. The small immature fruits are edible as are the flowers. The vines can grow quite large and need good support. I’ve had some vines grow to the tops of a few trees here and the ones that grew on the shade over the 300 gallon aquaponics system have collapsed that shade cloth. The vine can grow to 30+ feet long
The flavor of the fruit is a bit like cucumber or zucchini though the texture is a bit more like watermelon. Some varieties are thought to be a bit like okra by some and even called Chinese okra. The very small fruits can be cooked whole or sliced but the skins of larger fruit become bitter.
To harvest for sponges, let the fruit mature on the vine and dry till light and the skin is easier to split and peal off the fiber inside. Remove the skin and wash the fiber in water with an up and down motion to allow seeds to float out, then dry in the sun. That is all I do at least.