Our farm garden has become a fun experiment here on The Hill, where we love to try our hand at growing a variety of different plants. In the past, we have tried peanuts, ground cherries, and a couple years ago, we began planting heirloom loofah! Initially, this was a long shot, as the plants need 200 days of warm weather with no frost. If you know Kansas weather, you know this is highly unlikely! However, the idea of growing our own bath and kitchen sponges was exciting, and seemed like a natural addition to our product line. Our small experiment from a few years ago has grown into a year round project for Farmer Guy. Our seeds are started indoors in February, placed outside in May, and spend the summer growing long vines with beautiful blossoms.
The fruit stays on the vine until right before the first freeze, at which time they are harvested and hung to dry. After several months of drying, they are ready to peel, de-seed, and prepare for use in our products. This is quite a process - it takes a year from planting the seed to holding a sponge ready loofah! Because of this long process, in 2021, we are adding a high tunnel to The Hill to shorten our growing season and expand our plant capacity so we can bring you more loofah!
So what exactly is loofah (sometimes called luffa)? Surprise, it isn’t a sea sponge! Loofa is actually a squash/gourd that, when young, can be harvested and served in stir fry, soup, or as a substitute for cucumber. At this young and edible stage, the gourd flesh is soft and pliable. After this window, the gourd becomes more fibrous as it matures. At the end of a long growing season, the gourd is finally transformed into an amazing, all natural sponge for cleaning and exfoliating! Our new customers and farm visitors are often surprised when they learn we grow loofah. We’re used to the funny looks - most people, like us at one time, had no idea that these sponges are actually a plant similar to a cucumber or squash. Often, they are used to seeing puffy sponges sold in retail stores, and falsely assuming that is a loofah.
Nope! Loofah are not the same as sponges and are not often found available commercially. Of those that are available, they are typically imported and chemically processed after harvest. You will find that these loofah are rough and uncomfortable on your skin, due to those chemicals.
We are happy to offer our farm grown loofah as an alternative to these processed offerings! Our plants are grown and processed by hand, free of chemicals, resulting in a sponge that is gentle and soft on your skin. Our loofah are versatile and can be used in a variety of ways, from the shower and bath to the kitchen. We also offer select soap scents with loofah embedded into the bar, for the ultimate exfoliating and moisturizing experience. In the kitchen, the loofah is an excellent sponge alternative that is great for the planet. Just do your dishes, and toss in the dishwasher to clean as needed. It won’t scratch your pots and pans and doesn’t get that funky smell disposable sponges seem to get after use.
In 2021, we will have a limited amount of loofah available by size! You can also find them in some of our soaps. We hope you will give this unique product a try - you will not be disappointed!