Natural sponges DO come from the sea. Yes.
But these long scrubber type sponges are actually the skeletons of fruiting vegetables you can grow yourself (and eat mid-summer!)! Here's an old blog post from my family/garden blog that tells all about it. Now is the time to put in your seed order if you want to plant luffa gourds to eat and then save to dry and use as sponges.
If you're going to grow luffas for use as sponges, look for "dishcloth" or "sponge" or "smooth" luffas. They are wider in circumference than the "angled" luffas used in Chinese cuisine. Many seed suppliers have luffa seeds, but my favorite company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, definitely carries a wide variety.
Luffa gourd is about as classic in the Chinese garden as zucchini is in the North American garden. Like zucchini, you should stay on top of harvesting, as luffas grow prolifically and taste best when young. This beautiful vegetable can be used in a similar way as well.
Notice the ridges along the luffa. These ridges can be tough, so simply pare the ridges off with a vegetable peeler. You'll be left with a striped tender summer squash ready for any recipe!
I'm Wendy Kiang-Spray, gardener, home cook, and author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden. Learn more about the book here. Enjoy the blog and be sure to like The Chinese Kitchen Garden Facebook page for notifications when there are new posts.