Luffa acutangula: Ridge gourd

Family: Cucurbitaceae
Common name: Ridge gourd, Chinese okra, Sponge gourd, Angled luffa, Bitter luffa, Wild luffa, Wild ribbed gourd, Wild ridge gourd, Vegetable gourd, Dish cloth gourd, Ribbed loofah, Silky gourd, Silk gourd

The name Loofah for bath sponges come from the botanical name of Ridge gourds or Sponge gourds, Luffa. Tender gourds are used as vegetables and older gourds are used as bath sponges after removing the skin, pulp, and seeds.

Ridge gourd plants grow very quickly as climbers, clinging on to trellises, supporting structures, or surrounding vegetation producing yellow flowers, and then long, green, ridged gourds.

Ridge gourd plants can grow to a length of 3-5 meters with strong vines and tendrils. Both male and female flowers are produced by the plant, enabling easy pollination and fruiting. Leaves are simple, green, with slightly wavy or lobed edges.

Fruits looks like cucumbers or zucchini tapered towards the stem and slightly bulbous towards the bottom. Prominent ridges run from top to bottom, giving the plants its name and a unique identification feature.

These plants can grow very quickly and easily in kitchen gardens producing abundant fruits during the season. Rich, well-drained soil, regular watering, and fertilization and help grow healthy plants that yield well within 2-3 months of growth.

If the gourds are not plucked when they are tender, they become hard and brown. And this stage, they can be used for seeds or to produce bath sponges, hats, fibres for dish cleaners, skin cleansers etc.

Tender ridge gourds have a mild, sweet flavor which turns bitter as the fruits mature. While picking vegetables for cooking, make sure the upper half of the fruit is flexible and soft. Fruits are eaten after boiling, sautéing, or frying. They can also be eaten raw in salads and soups.

Young shoots, leaves, and flower buds can also be eaten in salads, sautéed, or fried. Seeds can be roasted and eaten as snacks. Bitter gourd seeds also yield oil but they are not used normally.

These plants have some medicinal uses, in the treatment of skin infections, jaundice, diabetes, haemorrhoids, headache, insect bites, sores, eye diseases, and worms.

They also have some insecticidal properties. The abundant fibre present in the fruits makes them ideal for preventing constipation, improving gut health, controlling blood sugar, and helping in weight loss.

Progagation is through seeds that germinate easily in well-drained soil.