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In China, Luffa cilindrica is known as "sin qua". There are a number of
distinct varieties of edible Luffa Gourd sold in southeast asia and
India, where the greatest genetic diversity is found. There are
varieties with angular or ridged fruit and smooth cylindrical
types. They are most often considered two different
species. Luffa acutangula is known in some parts of the southern
U.S. as vine okra or Chinese Okra, the angular varieties do look
a bit like okra when harvested young.
Ridged Luffa (Luffa acutangula)
While the very young fruit can be sliced and added to salads where it
gives a mild cucumber-like flavor, the fruit is esteemed in stir fry
and in sauces because it has the ability to soak up the flavors and add
texture. It is also batter dipped and fried. It is an
interesting, easy to use edible squash. The kinds that I prefer
have been developed for culinary use and are sweet or mild, non-bitter
kinds. They are always eaten when young (before they reach 6"
long) and while they are firm and solid because the older fruit develop
fibrous interiors, tough skin and a bitterness which may be slightly
The Luffa is more acclaimed in this country for the fibrous interior of
mature fruit which can be dried and used as a cosmetic bath
sponge. There have been breeding programs at the University of
North Carolina to develop good varieties for this purpose and to work
out methods of growing and processing the fruit for cosmetic sponges.
While the Luffa is an old world tropical squash we have found some
varieties that grow well on Long Island. They are rampant
sprawlers that do well on a trellis. The large yellow flowers are
bee pollinated. This year for the first time we were able to
produce a large seed crop of an early ridged kind. Usually we
manage to produce good food crops of the cylindric kinds but they tend
to rot instead of dry on the trellis like the ridged kind.
The dry ridged gourds rattle with their enclosed black seeds.
They are very tough with parchment like exteriors and tough cellulose
fiber interiors. What a gourd! I'm not too interested in
processing the fruit as a source of cosmetic sponge but I am told that
it is quite lucrative. The golden ridged fruits that I strung up
in bunches for seed created quite a stir because of their ornamental
look. Maybe I could sell the gourds as an ornament and then tell
my customers that when they're tired of looking at it, just soak it in
water for a half hour and then peeling away the skin. Make your