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8 January 2010

From the archives - Homemade gifts - luffas and soap (Dec 2007)

While the shops get busier with the excesses of Christmas shopping, my simple life continues at a gentle pace. It was a cooking and odds and ends day yesterday. I baked two fruit cakes, one for my family and one for a gift, and then made butter with local Guernsey cream for a batch of shortbread, also a gift. Hanno had a garage sale happening outside with the results of our decluttering over the past couple of months. Luckily we sold our old stove and oven and some other bits and pieces, and ended up making around $400. There was a constant stream of people and also tea being made and taken out to him, then, later, cold drinks with ice.

I wanted to get all my gifts organised yesterday. I don't give much now and I don't send cards at all, but those I do give to, are very special people. The gifts must be exactly right. I've been storing the last of the luffas from a crop earlier this year and yesterday afternoon I peeled and cleaned them. They've been soaking overnight with a little bleach added to the water as a couple of them were slightly mouldy. A luffa and homemade olive oil soap is a lovely combination and every time I give them as a gift, they're always appreciated.

Homemade soap is a real luxury. It's creamy and leaves my skin feeling clean and cared for. Most commercial soap doesn't contain glycerin, and that is what nourishes the skin. Usually the commercial makers extract the glycerin and sell that as a separate product because it's more valuable than the soap it comes from. That's why those soaps often make your skin dry and itchy. When you make your own soap, the glycerin stays in it and when you use the soap every day it gently cares for and nourishes your skin. Homemade soap, used with a luffa, is the perfect simple indulgence. Skin is the largest organ of the body and you should be careful with those products that touch your skin every day. Using an organically grown luffa from your garden, with homemade soap, is the most gentle and wholesome type of daily skin care.

This photo was taken in February of this year. Luffas are a hot weather crop and are harvested in this area in late February. We grew these next to our poly tank. When they're small and green you can eat luffas as a vegetable. They're pretty bland but, like eggplant, they take on the flavour of what they're cooked with.

This is what they looked like yesterday. I think I harvested about 30 luffas and these are the last of them. That hole at the end is where the seeds fall from.

Seeds and the peeled luffas. They look pretty ordinary at this stage.

They sat in a bucket of water with a small amount of bleach overnight. That was to kill the mould that was on some of them, but it also lightens the luffas.

And here they are this morning drying on the back verandah.

The addition of a good homemade olive oil soap makes this a wonderful gift for either a woman or a man.

I'll finish preparing my gifts this morning. I'm also baking bread, washing the floors and ironing. Things not sold in the garage sale will be boxed up and given to our local St Vinnies. This afternoon I'm writing letters and a couple of reports for work that have to be ready tomorrow afternoon. I doubt I'll have time to do them tomorrow.


  1. I never knew these lufas were an actual plant. That is the neatest thing I have seen in a while.

    Makes a wonderful gift combined with your soaps.


  2. I would LOVE to grow my own loofas this year. Do you know that I didn't even know that they were a vegetable? I guess I never THOUGHT about what they were. Sad. I am also very interested in making my own soap. (Most people think I'm crazy for this.) I have been unable to find lye, though. Do you know of another way to make it without the lye? Your input would be greatly appreciated.


  3. Pam, it is impossible to make soap without lye, no matter what others tell you. The closest you can get to it is to rebatch soap, you can search for that on my blog. But when you rebatch, you're just melting soap that has been made commercially and making it into a new shape. Find some lye, I believe you can buy it online, and have a go at cold pressed soap.

  4. Wow--guess I never thought about loofa origins, but would have NEVER guessed they were grown as an edible plant.

    That's what I love about your blog I ALWAYS learn something new. Thanks!

    Wonder if they would grow in the north Midwest (USA) summers can be as high as 85, but winters are brutal with lows dipping into the -20/30s. We have a short growing season here...basically Memorial day we put in gardens and harvest in August/Sept.

  5. Gosh I am loving your blog Rhonda. Who knew loofas were a plant? I can't believe I'd never thought this through. And I am definitely going to have a go at making my own soap - will search your site now for a recipe!

  6. Hi Rhonda,
    When are you coming back...I miss you. I love the archives but.....


  7. I also had no idea a lufa was a veggie. I thought they came from the ocean. Can I grow them in PA, USA? I have never seen them here or at any of the craft shows. I could start a trend!

  8. As always Rhonda, this is a very informative post. Will need to check out when is the best time to plant loofah down here on the South Coast of NSW.
    I too am looking forward to seeing your new posts for Jan 2010.

    Blessings Gail

  9. Hi again Rhonda, Just wondering if the powdered milk in your "rebatching soap" could be skim milk powder or is it best to use full cream milk powder?

    Thanks Gail

  10. Wow .....i wish we could grow loofahs in the UK. We've been snowed in for over 2 weeks now. I love your site it reminds me of sunshine and all things summery.

  11. Hi ,I,m cottonreel . I,ve just come over from Gavin,s blog . I have not read you before, I,ve missed a treat .
    I,m very interested in the loofahs and olive oil soap .
    They grow loofahs in Cyprus where I lived for a time . I,d love to make olive oil soap. -cottonreel

  12. This is one of the neatest things I've ever seen. I've been a long time lurker here, but had to peek out and comment on this! How sad that I had NO idea Luffas were a plant! Amazing. Thanks for sharing!!

  13. Rhonda,
    I've been interested in making my own soap for a while, but all the warnings about lye intimidate me. Is it as scary as it seems?

  14. I just found your blog and am enjoying it immensely! Thank you for your inspiring and uplifting words and counsel! I have two questions: 1) when making your soap, must I use different oils or can I use all olive oil? and 2) are you still doing your knit-along? I loved the idea and the pattern your shared. Was curious how you were coming along with it. Thanks for your blog!
    Renee in Utah

  15. Deb, you need about four months of hot weather to grow luffas.

    Coleen, I'll be back next Monday, the same day I go back to my voluntary job.

    Gail, sow your seeds in September and plant out when all chance of frost has past. You'll harvest in February. Skim milk is fine in soap.

    Gardenofsimple, finally you came out! LOL Welcome. You must use lye to make soap but if you're careful, you'll be fine. Make sure there are no children or pets around. It is a simple process but as lye will burn whatever it touches (until it neutralises in the soap making process) you just need to make sure you don't spill it, or breathe in the fumes.

    Renee, you can make pure olive oil soap - it's called castile soap, but it doesn't lather as much as an olive oil and coconut oil soap. I've about half finished my rug. I hope to use it this winter.

  16. Hi Rhonda,I have been making the same soap you make for about one year now, my soap however after drying has a white chalky cover on top. Do you know what this is and is there anyway to get rid of it?
    Love your blog, you are my inspiration


  17. Hello Eileen, I get that too sometimes. Read this:

  18. That is amazing! I read about these in a magazine once, and had thought it was too hard! Thanks for showimg me otherwise! I love them!

  19. I think this was one of the very first posts of yours that I ever read...and I enjoyed back then learning that a luffa is a real thing! ;-) I've also enjoyed numerous posts since then---thank you for continuing to enlighten, motivate, and reward us Rhonda!!

  20. I remember living in Africa, I served a neighbor some of the "squash" I had growing. They patiently explained that I served them "bath sponges".....we laughed over it for two years! Loofas!

  21. I have just come acrossyour BLOG...WOW, I love it.Sad I have been missing out.Where can I find this soap recipe?I have been trying to catch up on all your old post's.Spent 2 hours on here today.Better get busy.I also lost my job in October, first time in my life being unemployed,really struggling:( all your ideas are wonderful....THANKS FOR SHARING!


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