Malvaceae: Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)
What can I say about okra? Born on Long Island in New York, I wasn't very familiar with the plant but I did try to raise it as a curiosity over the years. Mostly, with limited success. This past summer I planted a mix of maybe 12 varieties including old standards, exotic Asian kinds, heirlooms and a few of the new F1 hybrid cultivars thinking that maybe one of these would excel and produce for me. We had a summer of record setting high temperatures here on Long Island, our summer just went on and on. You may call it global warming; I call 2007, my summer of okra.
Okra hails from tropical Africa and it doesn't take kindly to cold soil. Germination can be sporadic in cold soils. One of the right things that I did this season is hold off planting the seed until June. By that time I had my drip system going (using inexpensive t-tape) and the seeds sprouted well with enough moisture. The plants grew and grew to about was it high and looking a lot like a hedge before they were finally cut down by frost. I like okra. It has an exotic look with the big leaves and pretty mallow flowers. The pods mature fast and one has to pay close attention to harvesting the pods within a few days of flowering in order to enjoy eating the pods when tender. Indeed, gumbo type soups and stews were a nice way of consuming the fruits that just kept on coming. The okra fruit fiber, both soluble and rough is considered to be of great benefit in cholesterol control and intestinal health. When the pods mature fully and turn brown they are ready for harvest. They make a very nice dried arrangement and when thoroughly dry, the capsules easily are shredded open by hand and the seeds fall out.
Okra crosses with bee activity and I am counting on that. I am anxious to see what new mother nature'shybrids have been produced. I know that this okra patch is well on the road to greatness or at least on the road to producing my own garden adapted okras. If you are saving a treasured variety and want to maintain purity then make sure to plant the one kind of okra or bag the self-pollinated blossom before it opens and exclude insects until the bloom is finished.