Chinese Okra, (Dishcloth Gourd, Luffa)
Description - Chinese okra is in the cucurbit family. Fruits are strongly ribbed, elongated and cylindrical in shape and may be more than a foot in length. Plants are vigorous growing vines very similar to cucumbers and melons. The smooth loofah which is without ribs is commonly known as dishcloth gourd or sponge gourd.
Culture - Seed should be planted in early spring after all danger of frost. Plant in hills 3 feet apart in rows at least 4 feet apart. For maximum production, the plants should be trellised. Cultural requirements are the same as members of the cucurbit family. Fruit for consumption as a vegetable will be ready to harvest in about 100 days. Allow another 30 days for the fruit to fully mature if it is to be used as a gourd or as a dishcloth.
Availability - Chinese okra or vining okra is grown only as a garden item in Texas. However, recent articles in health and fashion publications encouraging the use of the "dishrag" as a beauty aid may encourage additional production in the near future.
Selection - Fruit should be six to eight inches in length and tender if it is to be used as a vegetable. Completely dried fruits are desirable if the spongy inside is to be removed and utilized.
Storage - Fresh fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks if kept under cool, humid conditions. Dried fruit can be kept indefinitely.
Nutrition Information - Chinese okra is low in calories. A 3 ounce serving contains only 20 calories and 20 percent of the RDA for vitamin C.
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