Wild gourd or luffa sponge
Description: The luffa sponge is widely distributed and fairly typical of a wild squash. There are several dozen kinds of wild squashes in tropical regions. Like most squashes, the luffa is a vine with leaves 7.5 to 20 centimeters (3 to 8 inches) across having 3 lobes. Some squashes have leaves twice this size. Luffa fruits are oblong or cylindrical, smooth, and many-seeded. Luffa flowers are bright yellow. The luffa fruit, when mature, is brown and resembles the cucumber.
Habitat and Distribution: A member of the squash family, which also includes the watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumber, the luffa sponge is widely cultivated throughout the tropical zone. It may be found in a semiwild state in old clearings and abandoned gardens in rain forests and semievergreen seasonal forests.
Edible Parts: You can boil the young green (half-ripe) fruit and eat them as a vegetable. Adding coconut milk will improve the flavor. After ripening, the luffa sponge develops an inedible spongelike texture in the interior of the fruit. You can also eat the tender shoots, flowers, and young leaves after cooking them. Roast the mature seeds a little and eat them like peanuts.
All text and images from the U.S. Army Field Manual 3-05.70: Survival.
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