The luffa, loofah, or lufah are tropical and subtropical vines comprising the genus Luffa, the only genus of the subtribe Luffinae of the plant family Cucurbitaceae. The fruit of at least two species, Luffa acutangula and Luffa aegyptiaca (Luffa cylindrica), is grown, harvested before maturity, and eaten as a vegetable, popular in Asia and Africa.
The ripe, dried fruit is also the source of the loofah or plant sponge. Luffas are also used to make the soles of beach sandals.
Luffa species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, includingHypercompe albicornis.
Parts of the plant are used to create bath or kitchen sponges, a natural jaundice remedy, furniture and even houses. It is also eaten as a green vegetable.
The fruit section of L. aegyptiaca may be allowed to mature and used as a bath or kitchen sponge after being processed to remove everything but the network of xylem or fibers. Marketed as luffa orloofah, the sponge is used like a body scrub. Softly-textured luffa sponges are not derived from the luffa fruit, but are manufactured by folding in several layers of soft mesh-like fabric into a cloud-like shape; commonly used in tandem with shower soaps.
Its juice is used as a natural remedy for jaundice. The juice is obtained by pounding the bitter luffa and squeezing it through a cloth. Bitter luffa seeds and dry crusts are also available and can be used for the same purpose.
In Maharashtra, India, dodka (Ridge Gourd/luffa) and ghosavala (smooth luffa) are common vegetables prepared with either crushed dried peanuts or with beans. In Northern regions of India, Torai is the common name for Luffa.
In China, Indonesia, the Philippines, the luffa or patola is eaten as a green vegetable in various dishes. The luffa is eaten when the fruit is young and the sponge has yet to become tough. It is also known as Chinese Okra in Canada.
In Paraguay, panels are made out of luffa combined with other vegetable matter and recycled plastic. These can be used to create furniture and construct houses.