How to prepare and eat Loofah

Yes, you read that right… loofah. I had no idea that when I began eating food from all around the world, I would end up running across loofah.

Turns out, in Botswana, as well as many, many other countries, Loofah is common eats. The more I read about it, the more I realize that Loofah is not so “exotic” as I originally thought.

Whoa, now. Before you run off to your bathroom to slice and dice and cook up your loofah, let me explain.

When I say loofah is common eats, I don’t mean the dry, hay colored, scratchy, back and callous scrubber… like the one you have next to your bathtub:

Photo by Qurren

I don’t think any amount of steaming, boiling, frying, or beating could make those loofahs tender. They come from the old, crusty loofah plant, the one that’s toughened up with age.

What they actually eat is the tender, young loofah. When picked fresh, the green loofah plant is slightly softer than a cucumber and slightly crispier than a zucchini. When cooked, the flavor is mild and slightly sweet.

Photo courtesy of CloveGarden.com

This edible loofah is often called “angled luffa” or “ridged gourd” or “Chinese okra” or “tori” or “patola” (the names go on and on, depending on the country).

A few facts about Loofah:

– Loofah is thought to originate in India.
– Loofah eating is common throughout Asia and parts of Africa
– Loofah is in the cucurbit family (along with cucumbers) and is a type of gourd

Purchasing and storing Loofah:

– Check your local Asian or Indian Market.
– Look for small, heavy, evenly green produce (about 10 inches long is ideal)
– Check freshness by snapping the fin with your fingers. A crisp snap implies freshness, while a soft fin is older and better suited to your bathtub!
– Store in a cool, dry spot. Wrap in dry towels, in an airtight container for just a couple of days.

Make sure to clean the loofah before cooking. First, wash well and then peel off the tough outer ridges (you can peel off all the skin, if desired). Finally, cut on a bias for even cooking and presentation.

The loofah is versatile. Here are a few preparation ideas:

– Steam with or without stuffing (shrimp, vegetable, etc)
– Stir- fry with onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, chicken
– stew in coconut milk, or with fish or bamboo shoots

NOTE: Much of the information in this post was drawn from my uber awesome “nerd” book “The Essential Reference: Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini” by Elizabeth Schneider. Love this book!

14 Comments

  1. Lemons says

    Wow, I started reading that and thought… “Great for those times when you get hungry in the shower”.

    I think it sounds kinda good – but then I love cucumbers.

    Does it have to be cooked or is it good raw like cucumbers?

    • globaltable says

      A snack for the shower is a great idea! 🙂 I’m often hungry…

      I’ve read that you can eat it raw, too. The skin can be tough and bitter, so if you do eat it raw, you might peel it completely!

  2. Many Chinese restaurants in New York serve loofah, usually paired with scallops. Loofah is a popular ingredient in dishes in Taiwan, Fujian, Guangdong and Malaysia too.

  3. Hi Sasha,

    Very intriguing,this loofah! It will make for a nice treasure hunt too, in Paris’ Chinatown because I would NEVER find in in an average supermarket.

    I now have to earmark your slow cook recipes for when it gets cooler again 🙂
    Happy cooking!

  4. Kate akrap says

    Hello, i am a chef in North East Australia, i have a local farmer who has started growing fresh loofah , and i am going to use it for the first time, i’m very excited with the versatility and the interesting smell, its a bit like peanuts i think.

  5. Just plant it. Stake up the vines as they grow around four feet long like grape vines on T stakes with wires running long ways. Wait for yellow blooms to appear and let them grow to a desired length and cut them off when still tender & soft. Better than okra or squash. The cooking aroma is wonderful. Fry like okra in corn meal.

  6. Joseph Arthur says

    Hello
    I have now notice the uses of luffa.
    When I was a kid my grandmom uses luffa sponge to bath me. Those days,

  7. We have grown Loofah for a few years as soap makers, but are wanting to try as an edible.

    • Chris says

      Hi Jim, my Chinese wife and I have been growing Loofah for about 8 years in South Gippsland Australia. We grow them in a poly tunnel in our veggi garden, on a trellis, and get good crops. Very sweet.

  8. I came across the loofah sponge thing being edible from a novel XD which I’m reading rn OwO and omg I didn’t know that all this time, the veggie that I prepared for soups and stir fries are actually the loofah thingies people use when old and dry XD

  9. Tan Ruifen says

    Hi there, the angled luffa in your post, when left to dry on the vine, does not become the scrubber in your same post. They are different types of luffa although they belong to the same family. If you find out more, the scrubber does not come from the angled luffa that has ridges, it comes from another type of luffa which is thicker, more spongy and without ridges.

    • PATRICIA C. says

      Tan, I’m glad you mentioned this difference. I grew the non-ridged luffa this year expecting to be able eat it and make sponges. Well, they did not taste good. So I left the rest to age and use as luffa sponges. Then I heard about the ridged type. I was expecting to be able to eat it AND make sponges . But now you are saying the ridged one will not make good luffa sponges and they are only for eating? By the way do you have a good recipe?

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