Loofahs ‘Amaze’ Jake Gyllenhaal—Here’s Why the Magical Fruit Might Wow You Too

The actor's recent comments have opened people’s eyes to the wonders of this fruit-turned-sponge.

Jake Gyllenhaal arrives at the 'Stronger' press conference during the 13th Zurich Film Festival on October 3, 2017 in Zurich, Switzerland. The Zurich Film Festival 2017 will take place from September 28 until October 8.

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Jake Gyllenhaal would like the world to know that his thoughts on showering (or lack thereof) have been evolving.

In an interview for the latest issue of Vanity Fair, ironically to promote his new cologne collaboration with Prada, the actor shared some thoughts when asked about his daily showering ritual. 

“I always am baffled that loofahs come from nature,” he said. “They feel like they’ve been made in a factory but, in fact, it’s just not true. Since I was young, it’s amazed me. More and more I find bathing to be less necessary, at times. I do believe, because Elvis Costello is wonderful, that good manners and bad breath get you nowhere. So I do that. But I do also think that there’s a whole world of not bathing that is also really helpful for skin maintenance, and we naturally clean ourselves.”

Lots to unpack here. But while the Internet was quick to tweet a collective “ewwww” over Gyllenhaal’s comments, the real meat—or rather, spongy goodness—of Gyllenhaal’s response is his sheer wonder over the magic of the naturally-grown loofah. There may even be a few of you right now experiencing the same epiphany that, yes, loofahs are not made by humans. And I have to agree with the man that in this world of manufactured everything, it can feel surprising to discover something utilized daily isn’t pulled off an assembly line. 

Luffa, Loofah, Loofa, Loufa, Lufa…

Luffa, Loofa or Loofah gourd with seeds
Luffah gourd cut open to show inside texture and seeds, loofah is used as a sponge to scrub in the bath or kitchen. Tamara Harding / Getty Images

While there’s little consensus on the exact spelling (we’ll side with loofah), we do know that these exfoliating sponges come from two different species of the gourd. The first, Luffa cylindrica, has a round, smooth appearance and is similar to a cucumber. The young fruit—low in calories and rich in antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and iron—is commonly eaten as a vegetable throughout Asia. Once the fruit matures, it turns inedible and is repurposed for products like bath sponges. The second species, Luffa acutangula, is similarly used but produces fruit with long ridges. It’s also a popular houseplant in colder climates. 

First domesticated some 10,000 years ago, the loofah has a very long history of being used for a wide variety of different products: doormats, hot plates, packing materials for pillows and mattresses, and sound insulation, to name a few. Before the Second World War, the U.S. Navy reportedly even used them as filters for steam engines. 

To Buy or Grow? 

If you’re interested in growing your own loofahs for the shower, bath, or even kitchen (they make a great sponge for dishes and other household cleaning), you’ll need a sunny location with a trellis. They’ll take between 150-200 days to reach maturity and another two to three weeks of drying. You can expect about six good-sized loofahs per vine. If you really want to scale things up, the North Carolina State Extension estimates as many as 20,000 sponges can be grown commercially per acre. 

Unlike other bath products, your used loofah can get tossed directly into the composting bin! 

If growing a loofah isn’t in your future plans, consider picking up an all-natural variety online or check your local farmer’s market. The biggest hurdle might be finding a producer in your own country. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Brazil, and the Caribbean are the major loofah-producing countries of the world. 

Again, check that farmer’s market. Just don’t be surprised if you see Gyllenhaal grinning alongside you and gazing in awe at the wonder that is the beautiful, perfect loofah.

View Article Sources
  1. Porterfield, W. M. Jr. "Loofah: The Sponge Gourd." Economic Botany, vol. 9, no. 3, 1955, pp.211-223.

  2. Schaffer, A.A., and H.S. Paris. "Melons, squashes , and gourds." Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2003, pp. 3817-3826., doi:10.1016/b0-12-227055-x/00760-4

  3. "Commercial Luffa Sponge Gourd Production." North Carolina State Extension.

  4. Arif, Muhammas, and Peter K. Pauls. "Growing Gourds." Food and Agriculture Organization.