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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Why Luffas Aren't Sold As Produce

Luffa Gourds, Edible Size
Last year we planted a few luffa vines and let them grow to their little hearts content until frost killed them back.  There were so many more luffa gourds than we were aware of, we were overrun with luffas.  They didn't look that great since they were hit with frost and ended up molding as a result.

This year we decided we would harvest the ones we could see as they were just big enough to eat.

Yes, luffa gourds are edible.  A little bit zucchini and a little bit okra.  Suitable in place of either, and we actually started making dehydrated ranch luffa chips - really good!

So, back to the headline...  why luffas aren't sold as produce.  In the beginning of the season, the luffas weren't ripe in large batches.  Maybe one every day or every few days.  I sliced them like zucchini and used them, but it does get kind of boring.  So, I started making chips, but running the dehydrator for half a tray at a time isn't wise.  I started harvesting and leaving on the countertop...  within a day, they started oxidizing and dehydrating and losing texture.  Next, tried the fridge, then they got mushy within a day.  Finally, just started popping them in a bowl of water on the counter top.  That did the trick.  This is not a viable option for the grocery store, so this is why they aren't sold as produce.  But, works for me!

Why We Grow Luffas
Agepostemon melliventris

The luffas are an all around pretty good plant.  They take off early.  Make great and natural summer shade for the hot summer desert garden, love the heat and produce something when little else does.  There aren't any pests or diseases that we know of that affect the luffa.  They make an excellent living mulch when the vines sprawl across the ground.

Luffas are really quite useful.  The vines, when cut back are great for the compost pile.  Lizards absolutely love the cover and chase after insects in there constantly.  The pollinators love Love LOVE the luffa flowers!  We have all sorts of bees all over them constantly.  One of the prettiest I've ever seen is the metallic sweat bee.

Carpenter Bee
When the luffas start producing, they produce plenty of very acceptable fruits that we have used in ramen, dehydrated for chips and sliced up for salad.  Mr. Man is not impressed with the okra like slimey texture, but I don't notice it.  The flavor is much like zucchini.

When the luffas get by us (and we have several large ones we missed already), then we just let them grow out to use for sponges or something for plants to start in.

And A Luffa Recipe

Luffa Ranch Chips

We slice up the luffas in 1/4 inch slices and lay them flat on dehydrator trays.  Then
nutritional value
dust a single 14 x 14 inch tray with two tablespoons of our Just Add Water Ranch Dressing, then dehydrate at 135 f for 14 hours.

Just Add Water Ranch Dressing:
1 cup non-dairy creamer
2 tbsp dried dill
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
4 true lemon packets or 1/2 tsp lemon powder
1 tsp mustard powder

As a side note, this is really good!  Husband approved.  I've mixed this with home made yogurt for a dip, water and / or oil for ranch dressing and oil and vinegar for a creamy italian.  It is very versatile and backpacking friendly!

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