A loofah body sponge can turn a ho-hum shower into a relaxing treat. Gently scrubbing your body with a natural sponge while taking a long, hot shower is one of life’s great pleasures. It leaves you looking good and feeling refreshed. Use a loofah sponge in a circular motion to promote increased blood flow and reduce muscle tension.

A common misconception is that loofahs come from the sea. Sea sponges are actually the anatomical remains of a marine animal. A loofah, however, is a vegetable similar to a cucumber or squash that you can grow in your own garden. Their pollinated flowers grow into two-foot long cylindrical fruits that look like overgrown zucchinis. The outer skin is removed to reveal the skeleton-like sponge inside.

Although loofahs are most commonly used in the bath or shower, they’re also great for washing dishes and scrubbing pots and pans. The soft, natural fibers scour gently without damaging glass, ceramics or non-stick surfaces. Homegrown loofahs are softer than commercial varieties and get softer with each use. What’s more, they’re 100 percent biodegradable and compostable. They return cleanly to the environment after you’ve finished using them.    

Each year, Rachel and I try to live a little more frugally and sustainably. Growing our own loofahs fits right in with this goal. Individual natural sponges can cost as much as $5 each. A packet of loofah seeds can be purchased for as little as $3 – a year’s supply for both bath and kitchen. Loofahs slice easily. Each two-foot long specimen can be portioned into numerous palm-sized, easy-to-use sponges. Homegrown loofahs create a rich, creamy lather with just a small amount of soap or gel, saving you even more money.          

Loofahs are easy to grow, but they take a long time to mature, about 180 days. That’s the length of our average growing season. You’ll need to get them planted as soon as any threat of frost has passed for a harvest in October. The seeds may take up to two weeks to germinate, so be patient. The vigorous vines grow 25 to 30 feet long and require a long, sturdy fence or trellis to support the heavy fruit. Without proper support, the vines can easily overtake your entire garden. The showy yellow flowers alone are worth growing this vine. Loofahs need at least eight hours of full sun – non-negotiable. They also require consistent watering. Leave the gourds on the vine until they dry out and the green skin turns yellow. If the skins turn brown, that’s even better. Slice off the ends and shake out the seeds. Next, peel the skins and rinse out the remaining flesh with water. Allow them to dry in the sun for just a few hours. If kept dry, unused loofahs can be stored for several years.

Use warm water to soften loofahs before each use. Don’t forget, a little soap goes a long way. Rinse your loofah thoroughly after each use and allow it to dry completely. For the sake of good hygiene, replace loofahs every three to four weeks.  

Growing your own loofahs is good for your skin, good for your budget and good for the environment. 

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at rnlyes@hotmail.com