Answer: Luffa aegyptica, the dishcloth or sponge gourd, can be grown in a sunny garden spot. It's harvested green if you want a softer sponge, or when the gourd turns yellow or tan, if you want hard, scratchy sponges. Most gardeners allow the gourds to mature on the vine. When the vine withers and dies, cut the gourds off and allow them to finish drying in a warm, dry place, like an attic, for 2-3 months. When ready to make your loofa sponges, soak the gourds for one hour in tepid water, until the skin peels off easily. Cut through the fibrous material so you can remove the seeds inside - just shake or pull them out. Then use a 1:10 solution of bleach and water to kill any fungal organisms to the bleach the sponges white. Seeds for Luffa aegyptica are available from Burpee's catalog. Order online at http://www.burpee.com, or phone toll-free (800) 888-1447.
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