Did you know that loofah is a squash?
Its true! Many people confuse them with sea sponges (Porifera spp.). They’re actually a long season squash you can then turn into lovely soap or spa treats.
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Home Grown Gifts
This year I decided I would try making handmade gifts that are simple, fun and right from my own garden. I have made other gifts such as body scrubs, lotion bars, knitted many a blanket and sewn small stocking stuffers (chapstick holder, anyone?). But this year I’d like to try something more ambitious: loofah soap. Mostly from scratch, though I haven’t been brave enough to start with lye yet. This one is with a melt and pour soap from Amazon that has sustainably sourced Palm Oil (RSPO).
Just one minute for my soap box (I know, I’m punny ;)). RSPO (responsibly sourced palm oil) or “palm oil free” is important to me as a primatologist. If you are interested in learning more about this important label, and want to know how you can avoid it by using RSPO-sourced palm oil for your crafts, see this link. For orangutans it is particularly devastating when not harvested ethically. You cannot win every battle but this one is close to my heart. Okay, I’m done! Back to fun soap!
Plant luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca and Luffa acutangula) (aka luffa) in the spring after the danger of frost (if you have shorter growing season, start indoors, they transplant easily).The vines grow rapidly with huge leaves. If trellising, make sure it is extra sturdy. Be wary of a late frost, like most squash it will die if they experience a freeze. However, they did not need much care other than good soil (hardly even watered mine) and this one vine handled a fair bit of shade and still produced 10-15 (the bugs got a few).
Harvest Loofahs: these take a loooooooong time to mature. It will be late fall before they’re ready (between 120 to 200 days to maturity). Wait until right before frost or when the gourds have begun to brown and dry up. They should feel light (not heavy or dense, that means the flesh has diminished some and turned into the sponge most people are used to). They will dry off the vine, but beware mold. Keep in a dry place.
Cut off ends
Shake out seeds, a big deep bowl or pot is helpful (I used a water bath canner other wise the seeds would fly everywhere and you need to get them all out). Save the seeds! Mine were actually from a dried luffa gourd I had gotten from a friend the year before.
Peel loofah: There are threads running through along the loofah, tug one of those them peel away. It’s easier if it is still just slightly damp/wet from being a little greener but then the seeds are harder to remove.
Wash thoroughly until water runs clear
Be sure if they are still a little green to squeeze and run with warm water to get rid of the remaining flesh (we don’t want that to be in the soap). Put in cool, dry place to dry for at least 24 hours.
Cut into 1 inch rounds, set aside
Making the Soap:
- Gather materials for soap making:
- To find out exactly how much soap without a scale: pour water into the molds then pour that into a measuring cup. Then measure out that much soap. You may need to cut the melt and pour soap up into small chunks. This well help it melt evenly in the microwave as well as measure correctly.
- Place luffah rounds in mold
- Melt soap base according to directions (this one was in the microwave, finished in about 2 minutes)
- After melted, add any essential oils or colors, I did not use colors so I added jasmine essential oil, about 20 drops
- Spray both the mold and loofahs with rubbing alcohol
- Pour melted soap over luffah rounds in base
- Spray tops with light misting of rubbing alcohol, helps get rid of bubbles
- Then wait, needs to dry completely for around 24 to 48 hours before you can use it (or package for gifts)
- Voila! Gifts for all!
For more information on growing loofahs yourself, you can go here.
My loofah seeds came from a friend. I actually didn’t think it would do well in my partially shady, often neglected, front garden area. But lo and behold I got 10 giant loofahs out of just this one plant! (That’s a lot of scrubbies!)
Thanks for visiting! I love making gifts from scratch, including making lotion bars. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think, what worked and what didn’t, I appreciate all the feedback.
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