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Ridge gourd (Luffa acutangula (L.) Roxb.), a crop indigenous to our country, has got a long history of cultivation. From ancient times, this crop was grown for the fibrous vascular network called ‘Loofah’ obtained from its dry fruits, which was widely used as a bath sponge. Subsequently, it gained importance as a warm season vegetable crop grown for its ridged green tender fruits which are used in several culinary delicacies like theeyal, pachadi, thoran, chutney, baji etc. The fruit is said to be a fair source of vitamins, calcium, iron and phosphorus.

At vegetable maturity, 100 gm edible portion of it contains 0.5 gm protein, 3.5 gm carbohydrates, 37 mg carotene, 0.01mg vitamin B2, 18 mg vitamin C, 40 mg calcium and 1.6 mg iron. Medicinally, the plant pacifies vitiated vata, pitta, skin diseases, jaundice, splenomegaly, hemorrhoids and general weakness. Isolation of a ribosome-inactivating peptide (RIP) viz. luffangulin from ridge gourd seeds shows the potential of this species in therapeutic use, as RIPs possess various pharmacological properties including abortifacient, antifungal, antitumor, antivirus and HIV-1 integrase inhibitory properties. The fibrous network obtained from dry fruits is used as such as a bath sponge from time immemorial. It is now used for making value added products like scrub pads, brushes, door mats, mattresses and pillows.

Known as Peechil in
Malayalam, this is a
popular crop of kitchen
gardens and homesteads
of Kerala. The best
seasons for its cultivation
under the conditions
prevailing in the State are
September - December and
January - April.

Known as Peechil in Malayalam, this is a popular crop of kitchen gardens and homesteads of Kerala. The best seasons for its cultivation under the conditions prevailing in the State are September - December and January - April. Kerala Agricultural University has released two promising varieties of ridge gourd namely, H a r i t h a m and Deepthi, the salient features of which are as follows: Haritham High yield (13.2 tone/ha); Long, light green fruits; Cylindrical, sharply tapering towards the base; Prominent ridges; Average fruit weight - 650 g ; Average fruit length - 46.5 cm.

Deepthi High yield (12.7 tone/ha); Medium long, green fruits; Cylindrical, tapering towards the base; Finely wrinkled fruit surface with ridges; Average fruit weight - 164 g ; Average fruit length - 23 cm.

The seeds are sown in pits of 60 cm diameter dug at a spacing of two metre by two metre. This ensures a crop density of 2500 plants per hectare. The recommended seed rate is 2.5 to three kg/ ha. Soaking of seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours prior to sowing improves germination. The vines are trailed over pandals or similar structures to get maximum output from the crop. The crop responds well to sound nutrient management. For one hectare, 25 tons of farmyard manure along with 35 kg of nitrogen and 25 kg each of phosphorus and potash should be added as basal
dressing. As top dressing, 17.5 kg nitrogen should be added at the time of vining and repeat the same when the crop is in full bloom.

Weekly irrigation is necessary during dry spells. Weeding is to be done as and when necessary, but compulsorily before top dressing. Earthing up of the crop is to be done after first top dressing. No major pests and disease are observed in this crop.

The crop is ready for harvesting in about 60 to 90 days after sowing. For vegetable purpose, fruits are harvested when they are tender and immature. The fruits attain marketable maturity in five to seven days after fruit set. Picking is to be done every three to four days as delay in harvesting will result in mature fibrous fruits unfit for consumption. The yield varies between 10 to 15 tone/ha.

For the extraction of fibre, mature brown fruits are harvested and allowed to dry under sun. After complete drying, the bloom end of the fruit is opened and the seeds are removed. The fruit is then soaked in clean water to remove the skin and pulp. The water needs to be changed frequently to avoid staining the fruit fibres. The fibrous network is finally taken out, trimmed and dried to obtain a dense, fine to medium textured natural fibre.


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