We picked our gourds last week and brought them in to dry on a rack by the fire place. Most of them dried out real nice, the skins turned a dark brownish green and they sounded hollow when I tapped them. There were a few that got moldy and needed to be discarded, but we learn from our mistakes and next year we'll be more careful to turn them more often during the drying process.
The first step to this process was the most fun for the kids. Zi got to slam the gourds against the floor to loosen the skin and knock the seeds loose. After a few good whacks the bottoms break off and all the seeds can be shook out fairly easily. We saved our seeds for next year's Loofah garden (Zi plans to expand this little enterprise).
After all the gourds were assaulted to the best of Zi's ability we sat and peeled the skin away with our fingers. This at first seemed like a grueling chore but after the first one it got easier. It just took some practice to become efficient at it.
Next we rinsed all the sap off them, lightly washed them with dish soap, then soaked them in a mild bleach and water solution for a few minutes to destroy any bacteria or molds that may have been hiding in our sponges. After another good rinse, we squeezed all the excess water out of them and hung them up to dry by the fire. By tomorrow our loofahs will have dried again and we'll cut them into manageable sized sponges.
This project was probably one of the simplest and inexpensive educational crafts we did this year. Zi saw a whole process through from start to finish, experiencing all of the stages of the growth and production of a loofah sponge, from a seed to practical holiday gift.