Fresh, Crunchy Seed Pods for Cooking
Subspecies: Abelmoschus esculentus
Okra belongs to the Malvaceae family, which includes cotton, hollyhock, and hibiscus, as well as many other flowering plants. Okra itself flowers with white to yellow colored petals, usually with a red or purple spot near the base of the petals.
Okra is sometimes also called ladies’ fingers or gumbo in North America, and is called ochro in some other countries. Growing okra can be a great addition to your garden. Read on for our full guide on how to grow okra.
Okra produces best in loose, well drained, fertile soils in full sun. Soil that remains too wet will hamper growth. Okra tends to grow best in slightly acidic soils.
Okra can be started with seeds planted directly in the ground or by transplanting seeds that were planted and started indoors. Soaking seeds in shallow water over night before planting will result in a higher germination rate.
If planting direct, okra seeds should be planted about two weeks after last frost.
Okra seeds need to be planted at a depth of 1 inch. There should be 4 – 6 inches between seeds and 3 feet between rows. When seedlings are several inches tall, thin the plants to a distance of two feet from each other.
Okra can be started outdoors from transplants, but they require careful management to thrive. The seeds should be planted 8 weeks before they will be placed in the ground. Peat pots or soil blocks should be used when starting seeds inside. 2 seeds should be planted per pot, so that the strongest seedling may be transplanted in the garden.
Several varieties of okra are available to home gardeners. Varieties differ in plant size and characteristics. Most of these varieties will produce a spineless pod. Okra varieties that do best in various geographic areas include: Annie Oakley II, a spineless variety with dark green pods. This variety can produce plants up to 4 feet in height. Burgundy, a variety with burgundy red pods that can also produce plants up to 4 feet tall. Cajun Delight and Clemson Spineless are both varieties with spineless and dark green pods.
Okra can attract both aphids and cabbage loopers. A direct and steady spray of water will displace aphids from the plants. This should be done before the sun is directly overhead so plants will have time to dry before the hottest part of the day.
Cabbage worms can be a problem with okra and should be picked off manually and destroyed. Using row covers made of netting or tightly woven cheesecloth will help protect the plants from Cabbage worm damage. Row covers need to be removed from the plant rows once summer temperatures are consistently above 78°F.
The best way to preserve okra for winter use is to freeze the youngest and most tender pods. Before freezing the okra should be blanched in order to retain its flavor and nutritive value. Thawed okra will have some texture differences from fresh okra, and will perform better if placed into soups and stews, straight from the freezer.