Luffa Gourds
Angled Luffa Angled Luffa:   -   [Chinese Okra, Vine Okra, California Okra; Patola (Philippine); Muop Khia (Viet); Buap Liyam (Thai);Turai, Torai, Dodka, Jhinga (India); Sigua, Sing Qua (China); Oyong (Indonesia); Luffa acutangula]

Grown all over Southeast Asia, these have also long been a common vegetable here in Southern California. They are used by Asians of all stripes, from India to the Philippines. Often sold as "Chinese Okra", it is entirely unrelated to Okra and does not resemble it in flavor, texture, cooking properties or size, only in that it has ridges.

The skin is stiff and thin with sharp ridges running the full length. The flesh is very delicate in both flavor and texture, yet holds its shape well when cooked. The photo specimen was 19 inches long, 2-1/2 inches diameter and weighed 14 ounces. They vary in shape and size. The cut one was more uniform in diameter, 21 inches long and weighed just over 1 pound.

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Smooth Luffa Smooth Luffa:   -   [Egyptian Luffa, Silk Gourd Vietnamese Lufa; Patola (Philippine); Muop Huong, Totura Muop (Vietnam); Galka, Turai, Ghosavala (India); Sigua, Sing Qua (China); Oyong (Indonesia); Luffa cylindrica alt L. aegyptiaca]

Probably of African origin, these are an eating variety which may be cylindrical or snake shaped with little or no ridging. Cylindrical ones are generally eaten when they are about 8 to 10 inches long, snake shaped ones depending on variety. The photo specimen in the center was 11 inches long and 2-1/2 inches diameter.

These gourds have not yet become common in Southern California markets, but I have found them in Indian markets in Artesia. They have a more distinctly vegetable flavor than the Angled Luffa and store considerably longer. In California they are grown commercially mostly for the bath sponge produced when they mature and dry out. They are also grown in Florida where some may be used for cooking.

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Whole & Cut Luffa Taiwan Luffa:   -   [Taiwan squash; Luffa cylindrica alt L. aegyptiaca]

In Taiwan, a number of luffa varieties have been developed that are short and blocky. The photo specimens are the most extreme - most Taiwan varieties are narrower (2-1/2 to 3 inches diameter) and at least twice as long as wide. These specimens were 5 inches long, 4-1/4 inches diameter and weighed 1 pound each. They were purchased in Nov 2012 from a large Asian market in Los Angeles, labeled as "Taiwan Squash". Actually, other shapes and other vegetables are called "Taiwan" in some Asian markets here if they are a bit different from the usual variety.

More on Gourds.

All Varieties

Buying:   The angled variety is not new around here, having been grown in California for many decades. The smooth variety is still not too common - I don't know why, it's easier to work with than the angled variety. Find smooth luffa in Asian or Indian markets. Angled luffa can also be found in produce markets and some well stocked supermarkets, especially in areas with a significant Asian population. Look for gourds fairly thick for their length and without soft spots indicating spoilage.

Storing:   Angled Luffa will keep a couple days at room temperature and up to a week wrapped in paper in the refrigerator. They rot quickly if the skin is moist so don't keep in plastic. The smooth variety keeps a bit better in the fridge.

Cooking:   Peel the skin with a vegetable peeler, taking as little as possible - The lighter green layer underneath should be left. For angled luffa it's easiest if you first peel off all the ridges, then do the spaces between.

Slice or cube per the recipe (the seeds are edible). Cook gently. Unlike squash, they hold their shape well with cooking and do not become mushy.

Yield:   A 14 ounce angled luffa yielded 8-3/8 ounces peeled (60%). Smooth luffas will yield a bit better because there is no no waste from the ridges.

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