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Sponge Gourd

An Introduction
Sponge Gourd or Loofah/Lufah refers to any of several tropical annual climbers, cultivated for its edible young fruits. This member of the gourd family also grows as an ornamental plant in many parts of the world. The fruit of two main species viz. luffa acutangula and luffa aegyptiaca, is widely used as a vegetable in many Asian and African countries. It is one of the most popular vegetables of India. Matured sponge gourds are also used as a bath or kitchen sponge after being processed to remove everything but the network of xylem.

Primarily cultivated in India and the Middle East, where the name originates, sponge gourd is also

grown in other warm, dry regions. As a hot weather crop, this plant prefers warm, dry climates, and is very sensitive to frost. The plants need to be watered regularly, but should not be allowed to become waterlogged.
Sponge Gourd...in Other Languages
This vegetable is known by various names in different regions of the world such as:
  • Torai in Hindi & Urdu
  • Bhol in Assamese
  • Jhinga in Bengali
  • Janhi in Oriya
  • Gisoda in Gujarati
  • Beerakaya in Telugu
  • Heeray kayi in Kannada
  • Peechinga in Malayalam
  • Pirkanga in Tamil
  • Wetakolu in Sinhala
  • Patola in Tagalog
  • Kabatiti in Ilocano
  • Gambas or oyong in Indonesian.

Culinary Uses
In many African and Asian countries, Sponge Gourd are a commonly used as vegetables. Almost all spices of this annual vine are edible, but they must be consumed before they mature, or they will be too woody and fibrous to eat. When cooked, it gives a sweet and delectable aroma. In India it is cooked in variety of ways. "Torai Bhurta" is quite popular among Indians and Pakistanis. In some menus, it is also described as “Chinese Okra.”

Medicinal Properties
Sponge gourd possess many healing and medicinal properties and is quite useful in asthma, skin

diseases and splenic enlargement. Researchers discovered that its regular consumption is helpful for rheumatism, backache, internal hemorrhage, chest pains as well as hemorrhoids.

As a Sponge
It serves wonderfully when used as a kitchen and bathroom sponge. Its dried fibrous interior acts as a natural skin shiner. Like other sponges, loofah will collect bacteria if it is kept moist and warm, an environment common to bathrooms. As a dry brush, it will gently remove the surface layer of dead skin, leaving the skin smooth and conditioned.

When used as a kitchen sponge, it makes a great abrasive sponge for removing stubborn food particles from dishes and counter tops. It is also gentle enough to use on delicate things like coated cookware which cannot withstand normal abrasives.

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