April 9, 2012

A Little Bit About Growing Okra

Okra is a heat loving plant that is tolerant of heat, humidity and drought although regular watering will produce higher yields and pods that stay tender longer. The plants are almost tree like growing anywhere from 4 to 12 feet depending on the variety. Given space and time the plants will form branches that will also flower and fruit. If a single pod is allowed to reach maturity then the plant shuts down fruit production even aborting immature flowers, and will put all its energy in ripening fruit which similarly occurs with pole beans, zucchini and summer squash.

Okra as a vegetable has a warm green nutty flavor that is difficult to describe. The young pods are tender and soft with a velvety texture. Although pods that are a little more mature and firmer are wonderful because of the young seeds which burst in your mouth when you bite down with a sweetness reminiscent of spring peas. Okra can secrete a thick liquid when cooked this thickening affect of okra makes it an important component of seafood gumbo. Yum. Pods cooked whole in tomato stews, lightly curried in coconut milk, or floured and fried served with fried oysters are just lovely.

Okra pods that are too old will be woody and fibrous so keep an eye out on ripening fruits or they can get away from you and reach gargantuan size. Few pests seem to bother okra except Japanese beetles which will consume the leaves till they look like lace. Personally, I just squish the bugs between my gloved fingers. Being a heat loving plant frost will damage and kill it, so plant after any chance of freezes are gone. Here are a few pictures from last year's okra plants.

The icy beautiful Cowhorn okra flower.
Newly formed Cowhorn okra.

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