I’ve harvested Lufa Sponges

Lufa Sponges

Lufa Sponges

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.

7 comments to I’ve harvested Lufa Sponges

  • Sminfiddle

    I’ve been intrigued by these since hearing they will grow and grow up the side of the biggest house. Grows in heat? Yay!
    Thanks for clearing up the question of edibility…

    I’ve become totally hooked on the taste of fresh squash blossoms this summer.

    • TCLynx

      As to the edibility, I think it may be an acquired taste. Some we’ve had I thought were good while others were a bit bitter. Haven’t tried eating the flowers but I’ve heard of people eating them. they are smaller than most summer squash blossoms but bigger than cucumber flowers. They definitely do heat though will need a fair share of water when growing and fruiting heavily and the ones growing in my aquaponics system have a massive root system. They can become very big vines in only one season so I guess it’s a good thing they are annuals.

  • Sminfiddle

    Last night a couple at the gig told me this week they made and enjoyed a zuke-blossom omelette. As they handed me a hefty zucchini bread. (If you’ve had enough zukes for the season, eating the blossoms can go towards population control I suppose?)

  • Patrick Fenton

    I’m totally intrigued about the Lufa Sponges. We’re headed home in December and this would be a fabulous crop for our warmer area. Is there any possibility of being able to purchase some seeds? I’ve never heard or seen of any seeds before (OK, actually thought Lufa Sponges came from the ocean) and this would be a great project for the kids we work with at home. Please let me know. Thanks, P.

    • TCLynx

      Where is “home”? Lufa is a great crop for a HOT hot climate provided there is enough moisture to support the huge plant. Make sure you have a good trellis and keep it away from the power lines and any trees you don’t want covered with vine!

      If you can’t find seeds, let me know. Buy a sponge and leave me a note and I’ll make sure to send you one with extra seeds in it for you. How’s that for a seed packet?

  • I’m definitely trying these in the System this summer, and in soil at the Community Garden. We can string a wire between the Boy Scouts’ and Girl Scouts’ raised beds.
    I hear the ‘ridges’ can be peeled off before cooking and that improves ’em.

    There are several seed sellers on eBay and Amazon… but why not get a TClynx original??

    • TCLynx

      Beware!!!!!! The vines can grow HUGE!!!!!!! I’m talking swallow a 30 foot oak tree huge.

      They will use lots of nutrients though and if you are struggling to find plants to use up nutrients in your system over summer, well here is a beast where two plants might suck down enough nutrients to compete with 12 big tomato plants. I had a huge number of fish in the 300 gallon system and those lufa kept the nitrate low anyway.

      However, A single lufa vine can happily completely fill a 100 gallon grow bed with roots, just a warning, you may have to cut the plant off and wait a few weeks for the roots to decompose before anything else will grow well in the bed for fall.

      Great fun, but be careful where you plant them as they will happily consume the trees and continue on to the power lines if you are not careful.

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