Ridge gourds are a popular vegetable in many Asian countries. Also known as ridged luffas and chinese vining okra, ridge gourds are easy to use in recipes that call for summer squash or okra. Though classified as a gourd, they are extremely different from the hard-shell gourds. They also don’t have the sliminess of okra, but their shape is reminiscent of a very long okra pod. Sliced and sautéed, they can be used as a simple vegetable dish or as an elegant garnish.
They produced an abundant harvest on our farm in 2014, bearing tasty young fruits until frost. We saw no evidence of disease or pest damage. If you’ve struggled to find bug resistant summer squash, ridged luffas could be just what you are looking for. Growing luffas is a lot like growing cucumbers, squash, and other crops in the cucurbit family.
Ridge gourds have their best eating quality when harvested at 1 1/2 in. diameter or less. For maximum production of tender young edible fruits, harvest every two days or so, as you would summer squash or okra.
Larger, slightly older fruits have tougher ridges, but they can still be appetizing if the outermost points of the ridges are peeled away with a vegetable peeler. If they are left to mature a little more yet, the texture becomes more fibrous and less desirable, and then they become too fibrous to eat, though the flavor is still fine. (Their cousins the smooth luffas are bitter at this stage.) If left to mature fully, Ridge Gourds start to acquire a brownish gray color. At this point they are ready to harvest for retting and use as homegrown bath sponges or dishcloths – though if this is your primary reason for growing luffas, the smooth type would probably be a better choice. We allowed our Ridge Gourds mature fully to produce seed.
Had we grown them primarily for the tender young edible fruits, I expect we would have had a much larger harvest yet.
Ridge gourds can be allowed to sprawl, but trellising them has several advantages: the fruits grow straighter, they are easier to find and harvest, they are cleaner at the time of harvest, and the trellised plants can create a pleasantly shaded space in your garden.
We used cattle panels to trellis our seed crop of ridge gourds. It probably would have been best to erect the trellis at the same time we planted the two rows of seeds in the second week of May, but at that time we were still quite busy mailing out seeds and sweet potato slips. By the time we erected the trellis in the third week of July, some of the vines had already grown to over 10 feet long, and the first fruits were beginning to form.
We moved the vines aside and put in two T-posts, each a few inches from one of the rows where we had planted and about 3 feet from the ends of the rows. Then we bent a single 16-foot by 4-foot cattle panel, made of thick welded wire, in an arc and set it between the T-posts. The first arch of the trellis was complete.
For a small home garden, one arch would have been enough, but for our seed crop, our rows were about 60 feet long. We made 8 more arches. Then we flung the vines onto the arches. I was prepared to wrap the plants’ tendrils carefully around the cattle panel wire, but they stayed up on their own.
One person with experience could easily set up a cattle panel trellis alone, but for those of us who made this particular trellis, it was our first time, so it was much easier with two of us. Before long, the space under the trellis felt like an enchanted enclave.