Made in the Valley: Organic and natural luffa sponges

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From the outside, the green plants appear to be a cucumber flowering during harvest, but inside there is a luffa sponge growing. (KFSN)

From the outside, the green plants appear to be a cucumber flowering during harvest, but inside a luffa sponge is growing.

Nathan Pauls and his wife are the owners of Luffa Gardens, a small family farm just outside of Reedley.

"I tell them these are sponges that we grow on our farm and they go 'You have water on your farm? A small ocean?' No, we grow them like a small cucumber."

They get a lot of reactions when they tell people the luffa (also spelled loofah) are not grown in the ocean, but on vines.

"They are amazed. Generally, they are amazed."

The farm started after Sherri Pauls got an unusual gift in the classroom.

"I brought it home, and my husband decided a few years later to plant the seeds, and it grew into a beautiful luffa vine."

Sherri says the vines produce clusters of the vegetables.

"When they are young you can actually eat them, and it tastes like a sweet squash, but if you let them mature they will actually turn into a sponge, and the process takes six months to grow and two months to dry on the vine. So it takes awhile."

Once dry, the sponges are soaked in water, and by hand, they are peeled until a luffa is revealed. After that, the sponges are cleaned and dried. They are sold in different sizes, and the Pauls' have even started making soap luffas too.

"I love how they feel on your skin," says Sherri. "They are very soft when you get them wet, and they're great for exfoliating and we use them in the kitchen they're great for the dishes."

Each is organic and natural made.

It is a labor of love for a couple who hopes to grow this business from the vine up.

Through the internet, the Pauls have sold their luffa sponges across the country and as far away as the east coast. You can try them out locally at the Old Town Clovis Farmers market Friday's. It is a sponge not grown in the ocean but made in the Valley.

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