Can you remember your grandmother using a weird cylindrical husk to wash wares and even shower with while you were growing up?
These memories recently flashed back to me a week ago while browsing through Amazon and realising that one of the most sought-after skin and body care essentials was existing long before we could understand the concept of organic beauty products!
Loofahs (Luffa aegyptiaca), also known as ‘Luffa’, is a vegetable sponge that is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. There are seven species but two (Luffa acutangula and L. aegyptiaca) are used to produce by-products.
Loofah has many uses, the main being dish-washing and bathing. However, they are also used as industrial filters.
Not only have their uses diversified but the price that you can obtain on the export market for a loofah or loofah scrubber has significantly increased over the past few years because of its high importance in the cosmetic industry. Many small businesses throughout the world pride themselves in the loofah vegetable production, drying them and creating the scrubs in various shapes which they export to the rest of the world through online commerce platforms such as Amazon and eBay.
An authentic loofah can be sold for US$8 to $10 depending on the quality and packaging. In Trinidad, we grow the Luffa acutangula variety and if you travel to the country areas you may just see them growing effortlessly.
There is a wonderful business opportunity to be reaped from these wonderful fruits and it starts by learning how to grow these Loofahs. To grow a luffa plant, you will need luffa seeds, rich compost, small to medium plant pots, a large clear plastic box with a lid, large plant pots or grow bags, secateurs, twine, and canes.
Source your luffa seeds by shaking them out gently from a well dried loofah. You can also purchase the seeds online if needed. Fill the small pots with the rich compost and bury the luffa seeds 1.5–2 cm deep. Water them well but do not over water as compost tend to uphold its moisture levels.
Germination happens about 20 days later after sowing the seeds. Carefully repot your plants in grow bags or large pots outdoors once they have a few leaves.
Place the plants against a sunny wall or trellis keeping some level of covering for shelter.
As the plants grow, use twine and canes to help support the branches. Yellow flowers will soon emerge, and then long green fruits will begin to grow.
Leave the fruit to turn brown and dry out on the vine. When they have, use a pair of secateurs to harvest the fruit. Peel the tough exterior skin away to reveal the fibrous interior, this is the loofah sponge. Shake out the seeds and keep the seeds safe and dry so that you can grow a new crop of luffa plants.
You can work with the loofah to create shapes for your skin care products and customise the packaging for an exotic look.
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