Monday, April 6, 2015

Loofah vegetable and scrub

This loofah shower sponge goes back as far as I know. In Chinese, it is called SING KUA. Mum and Dad used to grow this creeper plant and the fruit is long from 18 inches to 2 feet. We ate them at this stage, if you kept them too long, they become stringy and woody. It has ribs which you peel off. Recently, I have health conscious friends who keep the thick rough ribs because they argue that that's where the vitamins are.  They are very productive, and after a while, we used to hate them. They can be cooked dry or in a soup.  It is a good plant as it is cooling, and Mum says, it prevents pimples. We were in our teenaged years, and we were coaxed to eat them.
Because we had so much of them, I was sick of it. That is why I don't buy them as an adult. My family doesn't like them too.
Occasionally, Mum would leave one or two grow old on the vine to get the seed. These would grow very big and long. She then hung them to dry. She stored them hanging up the wall. When she needed the seeds for the garden, she would shake the dried gourd and the seeds would drop out. Eventually when all the seeds have been extracted, she cut them into segments and we used them to do dishes. Hence, some people called them dish rag gourd.
Some times as kids, we would use them as clubs, (they do shape like clubs) and chase each other. As we knocked our victim, the seeds would come out, and we sheepishly pick them up before Mum found out. We would try to stuff the seeds back into the loofah. The next time, Mum needed to take some seeds, with one shake, a whole pile would drop up, and she knew we had played with her loofah. Mum would question" Who disturbed my loofah?" and we would answer," Not me!" Such were the shenanigans we were up to.
We didn't use this as a shower sponge until I saw them selling at an exorbitant price in chemists in Auckland in early 1980s. It was marketed as a natural product. Used dry, it is a good  exfoliating brush before bathing, or to grind it and use it in exfoliating scrubs. As a dry brush, loofah will gently remove the surface layer of dead skin, leaving the skin smooth and conditioned. It is also a soft gentle body sponge in the shower. When I saw them, I exclaimed, my mum had DAI BA aka plenty and it was free.
Not long after, I took the water engineer for a trip to the ancestor's home of my mum in Durin where I enjoyed myself in my grandma's shop and river swims. When I helped my aunty do  the dishes, lo and behold! what did I see? loofah dish rags. I asked aunty if she had any that I could have. She gave me two which had not been process, meaning the other skins were still intact. Aunty taught me how to rid the rough skin by gently banging against the floor. The skin came off like crust from a loaf of old bread. I was very happy with myself.
Fast forward some twenty years, we visited Thailand. On our way home, at the entrance of Chatuchak ,the biggest market of Bangkok, I saw a man with baskets of big dried loofah. I bargained with him, and bought two of the biggest loofah.  What you see in the pix is half the loofah.
I chanced on our local Fijian fruit and veg shop. The proprieter was happy for me to take the pix of a young loofah, good for eating. She has a sign saying Taro, I think it is a mistake, Taro is a root plant like a giant yam which the Polynesians like.
Though there are many markets throughout Bangkok, Chatuchak Weekend Market is still pretty much the undisputed king of them all. The scale of it is pretty unbelievable - it covers an area of 70 rai (35 acres), contains more than 15 000 shops and stalls, has over 200 000 visitors each day, and they spend an estimated total of 30 million baht (approx US$750 000). The range of products on sale is extensive, and includes household accessories, handicrafts, religious artifacts, art, antiques, live animals (which unfortunately are frequently caged in cruel conditions), books, music, clothes, food, plants and flowers etc...

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