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Video: Luffa Is A Natural Washcloth. Description, Growing From Seeds. Using. Photo
Luffa, or Luffa (Luffa) is a genus of herbaceous vines of the family Pumpkin (Cucurbitaceae). The total number of types of luffa is more than fifty. But only two species have become widespread as cultivated plants - this is Luffa cylindrica and Luffa acutangula. In other species, the fruits are so small that growing them as industrial plants is impractical.
The center of origin of the luffa is Northwest India. In the VII century. n. e. Luffa was already known in China.
Currently, cylindrical loofah is cultivated in most of the tropical countries of the Old and New World; Luffa spiky-ribbed is less common, mainly in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and also in the Caribbean.
Botanical Description of Luffa
The leaves of the luffa are alternate with five or seven lobes, sometimes whole. The flowers are large, unisexual, yellow or white. Stamen flowers are collected in racemose inflorescences, pistillate are located singly. Fruits are elongated, cylindrical, dry and fibrous inside, with many seeds.
Luffa grows well in places protected from the wind. Prefers warm, loose, nutrient-rich soils, mostly well-cultivated and fertilized sandy loam. In the absence of a sufficient amount of manure, luffa seeds should be sown in pits 40X40 cm in size and 25-30 cm deep, half filled with manure.
Luffa has a very long growing season and needs to be grown in seedlings. Luffa seeds are sown in early April and are pots like cucumber seeds. They are very hard, covered with a thick shell and require warming up for a whole week at a temperature of about 40 degrees before sowing. Seedlings appear in 5-6 days. Seedlings are planted in early May in rows of 1.5m x 1m on low ridges or ridges.
Luffa forms a large leaf mass and bears a lot of fruits, so it needs more fertilizer. At the rate of 1 ha, 50-60 tons of manure, 500 kg of superphosphate, 400 kg of ammonium nitrate and 200 kg of potassium sulfate are introduced. Ammonium nitrate is applied in three steps: when planting seedlings, during the second and third loosening.
Luffa's root system is relatively weak and is located in the surface layer of the soil, and the leaves evaporate a lot of moisture, so it needs to be watered frequently. In May, when the plants are still poorly developed, it is enough to water once a week, in June-August and until mid-September - once or twice a week. After that, water less often to shorten the growing season and speed up the ripening of the fruits.
During the growing season, the loofah is loosened at least three times.
For the successful cultivation of loofah, it is necessary to use a support structure to guide and support the stems. If it is not done, the plants spread over the moist soil surface, as a result of which irregularly shaped fruits are formed, often damaged by fungal diseases.
Several types of support structures are known, of which the most widely used is a wire trellis, consisting of two rows of wire attached to stakes installed at 4-5 m intervals, like a trellis used for growing grapes. However, when using this design, part of the luffa stem still ends up on the moist soil surface. The more advanced design has so-called balconies, as for climbing grapes, but made of a lighter material.
Individual luffa plants are planted so that they can curl along fences and fences.
Luffa stems are tied to supports in several places. At the beginning of growth, all side branches are removed. To shorten the growing season, the main stem is pinched at a distance of 3 m. All deformed and late appeared fruits are removed. Only 6-8 fruits are left for a cylindrical loofah and 10-12 for a sharp-ribbed one.
Under favorable soil and climatic conditions and correct agricultural technology, 3-5 fruits are obtained from one plant of a smooth luffa, 6-8 fruits are sharply ribbed.
Using a loofah
Ostrorebristaya luffa (Luffa acutangula) is cultivated for the sake of young unripe fruits are used in food like cucumbers, as well as in soups and for cooking curry. Ripe fruits are inedible, as they taste very bitter. Leaves, shoots, buds and flowers of the sharp-ribbed luffa are eaten - after slightly stewing, they are seasoned with oil and served as a side dish.
Luffa cylindrica, or loofah (Luffa cylindrica) is used in food in much the same way. It is important to note that its leaves are extremely rich in carotene: its content is about 1.5 times higher than that of carrots or sweet peppers. The leaves contain iron 11 mg / 100 g, vitamin C - 95 mg / 100 g, protein - up to 5%.
The fibrous tissue created by the ripening of the luffa fruit is used to make sponge-like sponges (which, like the plant itself, are called luffa). This vegetable sponge provides a good massage at the same time as the washing procedure. Portuguese navigators were the first to find a similar application to the plant.
To obtain a washcloth, the luffa fruits are harvested green (then the final product is softer - "bath" quality) or brown, i.e. mature when it is easier to clean (in which case the product will be relatively tough). The fruits are dried (usually several weeks), then, as a rule, soaked in water (from several hours to a week) to soften the skin; then the peel is peeled off, and the inner fibers are peeled from the pulp with a stiff brush. The resulting washcloth is washed several times in soapy water, rinsed, dried in the sun, and then cut into pieces of the desired size.
Before World War II, up to 60% of the luffa imported into the United States was used in filters for diesel and steam engines. Due to its sound-absorbing and anti-shock effect, the luffa was used in the manufacture of steel soldier helmets and in armored personnel carriers of the US Army. Luffa seeds contain up to 46% edible oil and up to 40% protein.
In the cylindrical luffa, both vegetable varieties and special technical varieties for making bast are known. In Japan, luffa stem juice is used in cosmetics, in particular in the manufacture of high-quality lipstick.
The plant is widely used in traditional oriental medicine.
The infusion of luffa fruits is used in folk medicine in Colombia for chronic diseases of the nose and paranasal sinuses. It was introduced into homeopathic medicine (in appropriate dilutions) for the same indications, including allergic ones.