Check out The Luffa Farm in SLO County

Saturday, May 11th, 2024

Luffa Farm Nipomo

Luffa on the vine ready to harvest.

A destination for ‘adventurous knowledge-seekers’

—We all know that San Luis Obispo County features nearly 300 wineries, but one of its hidden gems The Luffa Farm, is also a rarity and a must-visit destination.

Owner Deanne Coon began growing luffas in the early 1980s by accident when a college friend was given some mystery seeds for a project. Deanne was known for her green thumb, so she planted the seeds in her garden. As the mystery plants grew, neither girl could identify them, and it quickly became, “that part of the garden I’ll get to this weekend” for a few weekends in a row. As luck would have it, those extra weekends allowed the plants to dry out. When they were tearing everything out thinking they had failed, they heard seeds rattling in the plants. Out of curiosity, they opened one up, and lo and behold, they discovered luffa!

A squash with a purpose

So, what is a luffa? Many people think that the luffa (or loofah as it’s sometimes marketed), grows in the sea. However, loofa is actually a squash that’s closely related to the cucumber and has been a skincare necessity for thousands of years. Most luffas sold in the United States are imported and subjected to chemical treatments. The luffas Deanne has been growing in Nipomo since 1999 are a fantastic and eco-conscious choice.

What started as a hobby grew into a business. Deanne began growing luffa to sell to local gift shops and spas, but “pretty quickly, word got out around town that the ‘luffa lady’ lived across from the golf course, and people regularly tracked her down, knocked on her door and asked to go scuba diving for luffas with her,” according to Brooklynn Gamble, Gift Shop Manager and Tour Guide. People began showing up every day, and Deanne enjoyed showing them the farm.

Her husband built the gift shop, and the farm has been open to the public ever since. The Luffa Farm grows between twelve and fifteen thousand luffas each year. Most are sold in the gift shop with homemade soaps and bath products. Guests learn about how luffas are grown on their free drop-in tours. The gift shop occasionally has luffa seeds for sale for those who want to grow their own.

Luffa Farm Nipomo

How does a luffa grow?

Get ready to be patient because luffas take six to nine months until they are ready to harvest. Deanne grows them in pots with string for support so gravity can help them grow into a straight luffa. Gamble explains, “They start out looking like cucumbers or zucchini growing out of the back of a flower.” At this point, they’re ready to eat, but the magic happens when left on the vine. The luffa fibers get larger and denser. The vine eventually sucks the water out of the gourd and recycles it through the rest of the plant. Gamble continues, “When it’s completely brown and crisp, it’s ready to harvest. We cut it off the vine, whack it to break it open, and shake the seeds out from the center. Then we peel the skin off, rinse it out, and trim it into whatever size luffa we need.”

Summer and fall are perfect for visiting The Luffa Farm. Drop-in tours are offered for groups fewer than 12 for free. For groups of 12 or more, a reservation is required along with a $5.00 admission fee per person.

The Luffa Farm, located at 1457 Willow Road in Nipomo, is open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. For more information visit theluffafarm.com, or call (805) 343-0883.

—Karen Lycan

 

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