Luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca Mill.) is a plant from the cucumber family grown for its multipurpose fruit in many tropical countries. It is an annual climbing or trailing herbaceous species that can grow to a length of 15 m. The luffa fruit is a cylindrical, fusiform, smooth, and dehiscent capsule, 20-50 cm long x 6-10 cm broad, with has a characteristic fibrous mesocarp (Achigan-Dako et al., 2011; eFloras, 2014). The leaves are alternate, large (6-25 cm x 6-27 cm) ovate and dark green. The seeds are numerous, dull black, elliptic-ovoid, 10-12 mm long x 6-8 mm broad. The Luffa genus encompasses 7 species among which two are domesticated: Luffa aegyptiaca and Luffa acutangula (Joshi et al., 2004).
Luffa is primarily grown for its fibre production. The young fruits and leaves can be cooked as a vegetable (fruits are used in India to make curry) or eaten fresh or dried. When the fruit matures it becomes fibrous: the fibre is used as a sponge for washing by humans and scrubbing utensils. In Central Africa, luffa fibre is used to brush clothes. It is also used to make hats, insoles of shoes, car-wipers, mats, sandals and gloves. The fibre has shock and sound absorbing properties that can be used in helmets and armoured vehicles. The fibre can be used as a filter in engines or to treat water or, in Ghana, palm wine. Fungal biosorbents can be immobilized on cylindrical sponges made of luffa in order to absorb heavy metals from wastewaters, including those from olive oil mills. Luffa oil meal is suitable as a fertilizer (Achigan-Dako et al., 2011).
Luffa seeds can be extracted for their edible oil which is rich in linoleic acid and has a high unsaturated:saturated fatty acids ratio (Elemo et al., 2011). However, luffa seeds and oil meal contain bitter substances that may be toxic to livestock. As of 2014, successful use of luffa products has only been reported for luffa seeds in feeding rabbits (Dairo, 2008), and luffa oil meal for feeding African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) (Jimoh et al., 2013). The use of luffa oil meal was considered inadvisable for cattle (Achigan-Dako et al., 2011). Luffa fruits and foliage are palatable and browsed by goats (Achigan-Dako et al., 2011; El-Hag et al., 2013). Leaves can be eaten by horses, cattle, sheep and goats (Malzy, 1954).