New Orleans The half-acre ACORN Farm has been in production in the Lower 9thWard of New Orleans for the last seven years or so. Initially part of the city’s Grow Green initiative to utilize land lots decimated by Hurricane Katrina, we have gradually moved from renter to owner, finally completing the process at the end of 2020.
The farm combines an orchard with three pecan trees coming closer and closer to bearing fruit along with a half-dozen papayas, blood oranges, navel oranges, satsumas, lemons, and calamondin. There are rows of okra and planting boxes of greens, kale, squash, and even pumpkins. And, then there are loofah growing abundantly and crawling over every inch of a felled tree and only beaten back by the regular mowing every several weeks.
Yes, I’m talking about loofah, a common fixture in thousands of hippie haunts from the 60s and reputedly a mandatory bathing accessory in Sweden and beyond. For years, I was told it was a squash. Wikipedia says not so. We’re talking cucumber cousin, but here’s their take, loofa…
…is a genus of tropical and subtropical vines in the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae). In everyday non-technical usage, the …loofah, usually refers to the fruits of the species Luffa aegyptiaca and Luffa acutangula. It is cultivated and eaten as a vegetable, but must be harvested at a young stage of development to be edible. The vegetable is popular in India,China and Vietnam. When the fruit is fully ripened, it is very fibrous.
Preparing them for sale or distribution is arduous, once the notion of eating them is rejected. All the seeds have to be shaken out several times, then the loofah has to be drowned and then dried. And, then the process must be repeated, until they are good and ready at which point, they can be cut into sizes usable for bathrooms and kitchens.
Last year, we offered many pieces for sale to customers at Fair Grinds Coffeehouses, our social enterprise partner. Some were bought, but many were not, and now stuck in stage 3.3 of the mayor’s pandemic regime, the manager pleads “no, mas!”
What do we do with such a bounty?
Maybe we should give them out as gifts for pledges to the radio stations? Maybe they could serve as part of the ACORN swag bag for members and donors at a certain level? They would be cheapish to mail, because they are so light, and, hey, fresh from the farm!
I’m open to suggestions of course. Let me know if you want one – they are great!