The luffa, loofah, or lufah (from Arabic لوف) are tropical and subtropical vines comprising the genus Luffa, the only genus of the subtribe Luffinae of the plant family Cucurbitaceae. The fruit of at least two species, Luffa acutangula and Luffa aegyptiaca (Luffa cylindrica), is grown, harvested before maturity, and eaten as a vegetable, popular in Asia and Africa.
The ripe, dried fruit is also the source of the loofah or plant sponge. Luffas are also used to make the soles of beach sandals.
Luffa species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including Hypercompe albicornis.
Parts of the plant are used to create bath or kitchen sponges, a natural remedy for jaundice, furniture and even houses. It is also eaten as a green vegetable.
The fruit section of L. aegyptiaca may be allowed to mature and used as a bath or kitchen sponge after being processed to remove everything but the network of xylem or fibers. Marketed as luffa or loofah, the sponge is used like a body scrub. Softly-textured luffa sponges are not derived from the luffa fruit, but are manufactured by folding in several layers of soft mesh-like fabric into a cloud-like shape; commonly used in tandem with shower soaps.
Its juice is used as a natural remedy for jaundice. The juice is obtained by pounding the bitter luffa and squeezing it through a cloth. Bitter luffa seeds and dry crusts are also available and can be used for the same purpose.
In Maharashtra, India, dodka (ridged gourd/luffa) and ghosavala (smooth luffa) are common vegetables prepared with either crushed dried peanuts or with beans.
In China and the Philippines, the luffa or patola is eaten as a green vegetable in various dishes. The luffa is eaten when the fruit is young and the sponge has yet to become tough.
In Paraguay, panels are made out of luffa combined with other vegetable matter and recycled plastic. These can be used to create furniture and construct houses.
A bag of natural luffas on an organic farm.
Luffa acutangula seeds. Each division of the ruler is 1 mm. Seeds of Luffa aegyptica look very similar.
A luffa sponge whose coarse texture helps with skin polishing.
Luffa aegyptiaca sponge section magnified 100 times
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