Last year my naive experiment of growing a luffa plant (in the relative cool of Kent) from a seed shaped in the sunshine of sub-Saharan Africa, came to a leaf-withered, sorry-looking nothing (despite having survived a nasty accident with a bike).
I was sad. After receiving a lesson in luffas from Bettie in Malawi, I had planted four small seeds and waited. Eventually, my reward came with the promise of fresh green shoots which started to tangle upwards. The decision not to take our luffa on holiday (as my husband suggested we do), was a wise one, and the plant flourished in our absence because a friend cared. However, nothing could save it from the inevitable frosts of a fast approaching winter.
But yesterday brought a surprise: photos of a lovely luffa, all ready to use, shared by my wonderful friend, Gwen.
Gwen lives and works with her husband, Bart (and their dogs and sheep), on an eco-friendly farm in Extremadura, in the wild west of Spain. She is one of the reasons why Have Paprika, Will Travel came about.
Her luffa has been nurtured from the same batch of seeds as mine.
I ask Gwen if the luffa plants have been easy to grow. She says that they only need a little water, and are still producing flowers and fruits as they bask in the never-ending warmth of a long Spanish summer. Gwen sends me photos of her organic vegetable garden turned into luffa jungle.
I smile with delight at the seeds’ success, and thank Gwen for the photos. As I wonder at the magical earth of the Finca, I think again that it’s no coincidence that the landscape reminds me of Africa, and I realise that the next time we visit, all the showers will come fully equipped with home-grown luffas. Bonus.
It’s possible to get as close to nature as you like at Finca las Cañadas. There are two big safari tents and a mobile home to rent, as well as glorious home produce to sample. For more information (and a chance to luffa up Spanish-style), click here.