It turns out that the plastic mesh scrubbing sponge gets its name from the fruit. There’s a plant bearing that fruit in our backyard. The Tagalog (Filipino) word for it is patola and most Filipinos eat it before it gets old enough to use for anything but food.
When I say vegetable, I mean in the culinary sense. The luffa is in the same family as the cucumber, which is also eaten like a vegetable. They’re both fruit because they grow from vines, like grapes.
I walked to my backyard in Olongapo one day to find out what all the commotion was about. My wife, Josie, and some in-laws were standing around a mango tree. A nephew was in the tree getting a luffa. The vines had grown up into the tree. I suppose they ate it, but I went back into the house after I held it in my hands for a minute.
Some people like to use the luffa as a scrubbing sponge, as a natural beauty product. That’s probably okay as long as it’s left to dry out between uses. Even then, I think it wouldn’t be a good idea to use it for more than a couple of days. It can hold onto dead skin and bacteria, which can end up back on your body the next time around.
I like natural products as much as the next person, but I think using artificial sponges is a better idea. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sponge for cleaning or a sponge for bathing. Josie buys the plastic mesh scrubbing sponges for the shower and square sponges for cleaning.