Edited by Ho Dinh Hai Long An - Vietnam Updated: 7/4/2015
1- Introduction to the Genus Luffa
1.1- Overview Luffais a genus of tropical and subtropicalvines in the cucumber (Cucurbitaceae) family. The luffa plant is a cucurbit, a group of plants including gourds, pumpkins, and cucumbers. It grows as a flowering annual vine. In everyday non-technical usage, the luffa, also spelledloofah, usually means the fruit of the two speciesL. aegyptiacaandL. acutangula. The fruit of these species is cultivated and eaten as a vegetable. The fruit must be harvested at a young stage of development to be edible. The vegetable is popular in China andVietnam.When the fruit is fully ripened it is very fibrous. The fully developed fruit is the source of the loofah scrubbing spongewhich is used in bathrooms and kitchens.Luffaare not frost-hardy, and require 150 to 200 warm days to mature. Synonyms PoppyaNeck.exM.Roem. TrevauxiaSteud., orth. var. TrevouxiaScop. TuriaForssk. Major species Luffa acutangula(Angled luffa, ridged luffa, vegetable gourd) Luffa aegyptiaca/Luffa cylindrica(Smooth luffa, Egyptian luffa, dishrag gourd, gourd loofa) Luffa operculata(Wild luffa, sponge cucumber)
1.2- The names The nameluffawas borrowed by European botanists in the 17th century from the Egyptian Arabic name lūf. The plant name "Luffa" was introduced to Western botany nomenclature by the botanistJohann Vesling(died 1649), who visited Egypt in the late 1620s and described the plant under cultivation with artificial irrigation in Egypt. In 1706 the botanistJoseph Pitton de Tournefortintroduced the formal botany genus name "Luffa". Luffa gourds have many names, both common and scientific. They are known as loofah, smooth loofah, loofah sponge, loofa, luffa, loufa, loufah, luffah, sponge gourd, Chinese okra, elephant okra, dishrag gourd, towel gourd, and other common names in many different languages. The scientific name for the plant in this page is Luffa aegyptiaca. It may also be known as Luffa cylindrica and the other species: Luffa acutangula.
2- Characteristics of the Genus Luffa
2.1- Description + Plants The luffa gourd plant is an annual tropical or subtropical climbing vine. Luffa is a fast-growing, long-season, warm-climate vine plant that can climb up to 15 feet high. There are several types of Luffa grown in the Orient. They are trailing or climbing annual herbs, monoecious; stems to 7 m long, 2-3 mm diam., ± glabrous, ribbed. Tendrils have 3-5-branches, with the stem 4.5-8 cm long, branches 5-9 cm long. When the fruit section of the plant matures, it can be used as an organic bath or kitchen sponge. Some people even use the juice of this very beneficial plant to treat jaundice. Luffa species (Luffa aegyptiaca and Luffa acutangula), also known as vegetable sponge or dishcloth gourds, are grown mainly for their useful fibrous tissue skeleton. Young fruits can be eaten as squash, used in stews or even used in place of cucumbers.
+ Leaves Leaves have petiole 1.5-6.5 cm long. The leaves are 7 - 20 cm across and have 3-7 lobes. Lamina is ovate to broadly ovate in outline, 3-14 cm long, 2.5-13 cm wide, with 3 -7 broad rounded or obtuse lobes, the lobes crenate, base cordate with the sinus wide, apex acute, hispid on both surfaces.
+ Flowers Inflorescences are usually unisexual, rarely with male and female flowers. Male flowers are in elongate racemes, rarely solitary; racemes 10-16 flowered, 3-30 cm long; peduncles 1.5-12 cm long; bracts ovate, 2-3 mm long, glandular; pedicels of racemose inflorescences 5-20 mm long, of solitary flowers 8-64 mm long; hypanthium broadly campanulate, 2-3 mm long; calyx lobes 5, triangular, 4-10 mm long, puberulous abaxially; corolla lobes 5, ovate-broadly spathulate, 12-20 mm long, ± glabrous, yellow; stamens 3, inserted towards the base of the hypanthium; anthers one 1-thecous, two 2-thecous, flexuose; disc absent. Female flowers are solitary, sometimes paired in axils; pedicels 3-20 mm long; ovary ovoid, 8-12 mm long, long-attenuate, pilose, shortly echinate; hypanthium above the constriction and perianth similar to male; staminodes 3; style c. 3 mm long; stigmas 3, 2-lobed, c. 2 mm long. Fruit ovoid, 2.5-4.5 cm long, 2-4 cm diam., glabrescent, echinate, many-seeded, dehiscing by an apical operculum; fruiting pedicel 2-20 mm long. Note:Luffa needs insects to carry out the pollinating process for setting fruits. If the insects or bees are not available in your area, the pollinating process can be done manually, by picking up male flowers and transferring pollens to femal flowers (by face-to-face touching the center part of flowers). This process should be carried out when flowering is active during the daytime. If the pollination is success, the fat portion of the female flower will grow into full size fruit.
+ Fruits The pollinated flowers grow cylindrical green fruits that eventually develop into a seed pod filled with many intertwined cellulose fibers. The outer skin is removed to reveal the "loofah" inside. The fruit is edible only when immature and is cooked like zucchini. The fruit setting may be relatively sensitive to the day length. Many varieties could perform relatively poor during the long day season in early summer and perform much better during the late summer and fall when the shorter daytime season arrives. The matured fruit forms sponge-like fibers inside. After the fruit matured, dried, skin and seeds removed/cleaned, fibers are often used as scrubbers, cleaning pads or bath sponges. Thus, this vegetable is also called Dish Cloth Luffa. Luffa fruits with smooth skin and ridged skin are widely grown in Asia for eating and cooking, as well as for dish cloth uses. Angled Luffa fruits are also often called Chinese Okra, but not related to Okra at all.
+ Seeds Seeds are elliptic form, 7-8 mm long, 4-5 mm wide, smooth or slightly rugose, dark brown mottled black, the margin narrowly winged. Luffa seeds, particularly Ridged Skin varieties, have hard skin and may take a long time to germinate. They need warm/moist soil conditions for germinating. For improving the seed germination, it is suggested to break slightly the seed at the non-seed-eye area/edge by clipping or sanding. This treatment will allow water entering the seed inside core to trigger the germination process.
3- Species and Varieties of Luffa Gourds
3.1- Common Species and Varieties 1- Species Luffa acutangula- Angled luffa, Chinese okra... Varieties: - Luffa acutangula acutangula - Luffa acutangula amara - Luffa acutangula forskalii 2- Species Luffa aegyptiaca - Egyptian cucumber, Sponge gourd, Vietnamese luffa (Mướp hương)… Varieties: - Luffa aegyptiaca aegyptiaca -Luffa aegyptiacavar.leiocarpa - Wild luffa of Mianma - Luffa aegyptiacavar. peramara 3- Species Luffa amara 4- Species Luffa arabum 5- Species Luffa astori 6- Species Luffa batesii 7- Species Luffa bendaul 8- Species Luffa bondel 9- Species Luffa caledonica 10- Species Luffa clavata 11- Species Luffa cordata 12- Species Luffa cylindrica, depending on Mill. isLuffa aegyptiaca- Smooth luffa, sponge luffa, vegetable sponge gourd… Varieties: - Luffa cylindricavar.insularum - Luffa cylindricavar.multiflora 13- Species Luffa drastica 14- Species Luffa echinata 15- Species Luffa fluminensis 16- Species Luffa foetida 17- Species Luffa forskalii 18- Species Luffa fricatoria 19- Species Luffa gosa 20- Species Luffa graveolens 21- Species Luffa hederacea 22- Species Luffa hermaphrodita 23- Species Luffa hilapikku 24- Species Luffa insularum 25- Species Luffa jacquinii 26- Species Luffa kleinii 27- Species Luffa leiocarpa 28- Species Luffa leucosperma 29- Species Luffa longistyla 30- Species Luffa luffa 31- Species Luffa operculata- Wild luffa or Wild loofa or mướp xơ (in Vietnamese). Variety: - Luffa operculatavar.intermedia 32- Species Luffa parvala 33- Species Luffa parvula 34- Species Luffa pentandra 35- Species Luffa purgans 36- Species Luffa quinquefolia 37- Species Luffa racemosa 38- Species Luffa saccata 39- Species Luffa satpatia 40- Species Luffa scabra 41- Species Luffa sepium 42- Species Luffa sphaerica 43- Species Luffa subangulata 44- Species Luffa sylvestris 45- Species Luffa tenera 46- Species Luffa tuberosa 47- Species Luffa umbellata 48- Species Luffa variegata 49- Species Luffa veitchii 50- Species Luffa vittata
3.2- Important Species and Varieties 1- Species Luffa acutangula - Angled luffa, Chinese okra... Varieties: - Luffa acutangula acutangula - Luffa acutangula amara - Luffa acutangula forskalii 2- Species Luffa aegyptiaca - Egyptian cucumber, Sponge gourd, Vietnamese luffa (Mướp hương)… Varieties: - Luffa aegyptiaca aegyptiaca -Luffa aegyptiacavar.leiocarpa - Wild luffa of Mianma - Luffa aegyptiacavar. peramara 3- Species Luffa cylindrica, depending on Mill. isLuffa aegyptiaca- Smooth luffa, sponge luffa, vegetable sponge gourd… Varieties: - Luffa cylindricavar.insularum - Luffa cylindricavar.multiflora 4- Species Luffa operculata- Wild luffa or Wild loofa or mướp xơ (in Vietnamese). Variety: - Luffa operculatavar.intermedia 5- Species Luffa sepium .
3.3- Asian Common Varieties (Please click the item name to see the details and image) 1- Variety Luffa, Edible Ace This is a smooth skin type luffa. Fruits are cylindrical-shaped, 8-12" long and 3" across, and with dark green skin and white flesh. The immature fruit is very popular for vegetable use in southern China and Taiwan. Plants grow vigorously in warm summer and are very productive. Black seed. 2- Variety Edible Luffa, Smooth Boy This variety grows vigorously in warm climates and is very prolific. Young fruits are good for cooking and the long matured fruits are very popular for making the dish cloth sponges. For the best straight fruits, grow the plants along trellis or supports. 3- Variety Edible Luffa, Hybrid Smooth Beauty This variety grows excellent edible luffa, 8-12 inches long with relatively light green skin and white flesh. Young fruits are very delicious, excellent for soup and stir-fry cooking. This vine plant grows very fast in warm climates and is generally grown along supports in the Orient. Very popular in Taiwan and Japan. White seeds. 4- Variety Edible Luffa, Hybrid Summer Cross This is a new high quality variety released in Taiwan after more than seven years' extensive research/development program. Plants are vigorous and are insensitive to the day length in setting fruits, suitable for growing all year round in subtropical areas. Frutis are very uniform in size and shape, 8-10 inches long and 2.5 inches in diameter with green skin and white flesh. The flesh is very tender and delicious and remains in beautiful fresh color after cooked. This early variety starts setting flowers/fruits in 40 days after transplanting for summer and in 60 days for winter crops in subtropical and tropical regions. It has been reported that this high yielding variety can produce 20-40% more fruits than other varieties and has become one of the most popular varieites in Asia for commercial production. 5- Variety Edible Luffa, Extra Long Smooth This unique variety produces extra long and slender fruits, 30-40 inches long x 2 inches diameter, with dark green skin and white fleash. Young fruits are very delicious and sweet, excellent for stir-fry and soup cooking. Matured/dried fruits can be harvested for making dish cloth and bathing sponges. Extra long luffa sponge is particulary useful and suitable for the back scratching/cleaning in bathing needs. Very vigorous and produtive. 6- Variety Luffa, Hybrid Southern Legacy Southern Legacy is a new hybrid luffa recently released in Asia. This variety is heat resistance and grows vigorously in warm climates. The plant is very productive. First harvest can be obtained 60 days after sowing and continues to bear fruits more than 180 days in subtropical climates. Fruits in green skin color and white flesh are 9 cm x 20 cm in size and 0.8-1.5 Kg in weight. Beautiful fruits are very attractive and easy to sale. Black seed. 7- Variety Edible Luffa, Hybrid Jupiter Jupiter is a new hybrid variety which produces long dark green fruits with thin skin, 12-15 inches in length and 120 grams in weight. Plants are very profilic and heat tolerant, suitable for growing in warm and high raining areas. Fast growing vine plants start to have flowers and bear fruits 45 days after sowing. White flesh is very tender and has nice flavor, excellent for cooking and soups. Fruit is slow in seed development. 8- Variety Edible Luffa, Muop Huong VN This is a Vietnamese edible luffa, called Muop Houng in Vietnam. Long fruits can grow up to more than 24 inches long, but are generally picked at about 15-20 inches before seeds formed inside. Upon shaving off the green skin, white flesh inside is very delicious and is very good for soup and stir-fry. This variety loves heat and performs very well in rainy and warm climates. 9- Variety Angled Luffa (Ridged Skin Luffa), Summer Long Fruits have raised ridges running from end to end, resembling Okra, and thus this variety is also called Chinese Okra. The ridged fruit is 1-2 ft. long and 2 inhces across and is lighter than the Smooth Skin Luffa. This variety is very popular for cooking use in China and Vietnam. Flesh is very tender and delicious. 10- Variety Angled Gourd, Hybrid Green Diamond Green Diamont is a new hybrid Angled Luffa which has quickly become a very popular choice in the markets in Asia. Attractive green fruits with end-to-end stripes are 3.6 x 50 cm in size and 340 gram in weight Plants are very vigorous, good branching and start to produce fruits 40 days after sowing. Very productive. High quality fruits. 11- Variety Angled Luffa, Lucky Boy This varity produces relatively shorter but fatter fruits. The plant grows vigorously in summer and bears a lot of fruits for a long time. Immatured fruits are well flavored, excellent for cooking uses. Dark green luffa is very popular in Southern China. This varity produces relatively shorter but fatter fruits. The plant grows vigorously in summer and bears a lot of fruits for a long time. Immatured fruits are well flavored, excellent for cooking uses. Dark green luffa is very popular in Southern China. 12- Variety Angled Luffa, Hybrid Asian Pride Asian Pride is a new hybrid variety which produces long and slender green fruits, 15-18 inches long and 130-150 grams in weight. This is a very early maturing hybrid and first fruit pick can be ready 45 days after sowing. Plants grow very well in subtropical and tropical climates, strong tolerant to heat and mildew attacks. 13- Variety Angled Luffa, Hybrid Extra Long This unique hybrid luffa produces extra long fruits, 70 cm long and 6 cm wide in size and 1.3 Lb. in weight. Plants are very vigorous and strongly resistant to heat,cold, rain and wind. This variety is very productive, yielding high quality fruits which are good for long distance shipping and marketing. One of the most popular varieties in the Orient. See also: More varieties of Edible Luffa Source: http://www.evergreenseeds.com/edibleluffa.html.
See Video about: Growing Luffa /loofah as a vegetable...
See Video about: Loofah as Food, Loofah as Facial
See Video about: Shrimp Soup - How To Make Shrimp Soup - Canh Muop Tom - Luffa Soup - Vietnamese Food Recipes