Luffa, also spelled loofah or lufah, is a green-colored tropical and subtropical vegetable from the Cucurbitaceae family, cultivated and harvested before it attains maturity. Some other popular names by which this vegetable is known include sponge gourd, silk squash, luffa squash and sing qua. Loofah is commonly eaten in Africa and Asia. The gourds grow in abundance in China, in the wild or alongside the house terraces.
These Old World tropical gourds are born into quite a few species of the genus and generally, they grow to about a feet long. In the orient, both ridged skinned and smooth skinned luffa types are grown. The angled luffas are called Chinese okra, although, they are not related to okra. The vegetable resembles a cross between okra and a squash, with the smooth skinned luffa types closely resembling green zucchini.
Popular Luffa Recipes
Stir-Fried Luffa Squash – This recipe recommends stir-frying garlic, shallots, mushrooms, soy and mushroom sauces, spring onions, luffa slices, coriander and spring onions. This dish is best served immediately once cooked.
Stir-Fried Luffa Squash with Garlic and Shrimp – For making this dish, garlic, shrimp dices and squash pieces are stir-fried consecutively, and finally mixed with pepper and fish sauce.
Loofah and Chicken Stir-Fry – This dish is prepared by stir-frying mushrooms, chiles, beans, ginger, garlic, luffa squash, cooked chicken, cornstarch and a sauce made of soy sauce, chicken stock, oyster sauce and sugar.
Pork Soup with Angled Luffa – This dish is created by simmering together marinated pork, black fungus, luffa pieces, ginger, water and salt.
Indian Luffa Squash Chutney – This sauce/dip is prepared by frying together ridged luffa with chili, ginger, garlic, coconut, mustard seeds and a ground mixture of fried coconut, black gram, Bengal gram, chilies, tamarind pulp, curry leaves and coriander leaves. This is served with South Indian rice cakes like Idli or Dosa.
Luffa Tomato Soup – Loofah in this dish is stir-fried with ginger, garlic and tomatoes and then, simmered in water with seasoning.
Luffa Omelette – For this dish, garlic, luffa pieces, prawns, sugar and salt are stir-fried together. Beaten egg is then poured over the ingredients and cooked in some soya sauce.
Cuisines Using Luffa
In Maharashtra, India, ridged luffa types are called dodka while their smooth skinned siblings are called ghosavala, both of which are either cooked with beans or crushed peanuts. In North India, the vegetable is called Torai, which is either employed in a mixed vegetable curry or stuffed with spices to be called Bharwan Torai. In the Philippines, China and Indonesia, luffa is also called patola, and is eaten in a wide range of dishes. Ginisang Miswa at Patola is a popular Philippine wheat noodle dish. In Indonesia, patola soups are more popular. In Chinese cuisine, stir-fries of the vegetable are more common.
Preferable Cooking Methods For Lufah
While many people think that the youngest luffa needs no peeling, it has found out that all luffa types are best cooked peeled, because, otherwise the bitterness on the skin can heavily interfere with the intended good taste of the dish to be prepared using it. The vegetable doesn’t require seeding and in fact, can also be consumed raw. Being spongy, the vegetable soaks up all the flavors of the dish, to the maximum and thus, it is a common ingredient in the broths, soups and coconut curries.
The vegetable is said to be best paired up with squid and shrimp. Cooking luffa squash takes a significantly short time. The flowers of luffa vines also have edible qualities and are often, used in stir-fry recipes along with the squash. The vegetable is cut into small chunks or slices, before being cooked. Luffa can either be cooked stir-fried in oil or butter and tossed with vegetables of choice, or it can be roasted in pieces. On the other hand, the gourd can find place on the grill to be barbecued in long strips or chunks, foiled up in aluminum.
Medicinal Value of Luffa Gourd
Luffa gourd contains a fibrous material, which is employed in making herbal medicines. Chinese medicine has been using the vegetable since ancient times, owing to its neutral properties and several remedial qualities relating to stomach, liver meridians, and lung. The gourd promotes blood circulation and is very effective in treating mastitis, chest congestion and pain, and musculoskeletal pain. Powdered loofa finds use in skin care cosmetics to remove toxins and reduce inflammation. Dried luffa is also used in medicinal pills, capsules and in powdered form. Luffa juice is used as a remedial measure in treating jaundice.
Luffa Buying and Storing Tips
Luffa squashes that are firm and small in size should be bought. It should be ensured that the vegetable is not shriveled, by checking the growing end which should not be soft. For storing these vegetables, a plastic bag should be chosen, in which the vegetables can be put and kept away in the refrigerator for up to seven days.
Non- Food Uses of Loofah
The ripe and dried version of Luffa is called plant sponge and is commonly used as a body scrubber or in the beach sandal soles. The dried vegetable can also be used as a kitchen sponge, for cleaning utensils. Often, the dried gourd is employed as an insulating material or in stuffing pillows.
Before World War II, the U.S ship boilers used luffas as filters.