Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Loofah Project

The local Community Garden group provides
many opportunities to participate in volunteer projects.
About a week ago, several of us gathered to work on
processing loofahs that had been harvested last season.
As new Master Gardeners, 
we are required to fulfill 40 hours of volunteer service.
This was an enjoyable way to meet some of the requirements 
and learn something new to boot!

 The loofahs are grown from seed at the Community Garden site in Denver, NC.
They had been dried on the vines and then harvested.
These gourds grow profusely during the hot months,
so it's a fabulous crop to try, when not much else will tolerate the heat.
(They can actually be eaten, much like zucchini,
when they are harvested while still small and soft.)
Of course, you know I want to give 'em a go,
so I have seeds soaking right now to begin the process.

Here are the handful of tools we used to make the procedure more efficient:
 gloves, saws and any long-shafted tool.

The ends of the gourds are sawn off.
If they are properly dried, this should be a breeze.

Insert any type of long rod-shaped device into the chambers
of the loofahs and move back and forth,
freeing the seeds inside.
We used a plastic bin to capture the seeds.
These can be saved to sow your next crop!
Black seeds have been shown to have better germination 
than the white seeds, and fortunately, there were plenty to be found.

The outer skin is peeled using several techniques.
To loosen the skin, the gourds can be rolled on a tabletop,
or struck with a rolling pin or large stick.
By just using your hands, they can be kneaded, until you can see the fibers breaking down.
Once the outer skin is cracked, it is much easier to start the peeling process.
Gloves are recommended during the peeling stage,
but I found it easier to work with bare hands.

The loofahs make quite a startling transformation!

We took turns at each task, and in no time, the project was completed.

The husks were then composted,

and the seeds saved for this season's planting.

One of the members of our team took the collection home
to soak them in a diluted bleach solution.
After rinsing several times, they will be ready to use.
The plan is to use them as a fundraiser for the Community Garden.
We hope to bring you a story on the unique gift item created with these fascinating gourds.

It was a good morning's work 
and the perfect excuse to network with other gardeners.
I can hardly wait to see what the next project is!

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