How to Grow, Harvest and Preserve Okra

Brook Elliott tells readers how to grow, harvest and preserve okra, includes best okra varieties to plant, harvesting information, and a hot pickled okra recipe.


| June/July 2002



Picking home-grown okra.

Picking home-grown okra.


WILLIAM D. ADAMS

Learn how to grow, harvest and preserve okra with this helpful guide.

"Wow!" a recent visitor exclaimed. "Those are pretty enough to grow in a flower garden." She was right. With its elegant hibiscus-like flowers and spiky pods, okra is as showy as any edible plant can be. The tall plants look great in the garden, and the dried seed pods are often used in floral arrangements. The young pods are the part you eat; they have a tender, chewy texture and earthy green taste.

Call it gumbo, bamya, lady's fingers, bhindi, quingombo or a half-dozen other names, okra is an annual vegetable usually thought of as a Southern plant. Reflecting its host of common names, okra even has two scientific names: Abelmoschus esculentus and Hibiscus esculentus.

How to Grow, Harvest and Preserve Okra

A basic ingredient in the Cajun dish filé gumbo, okra is actually much more versatile. It can be breaded and fried, steamed, baked, grilled, stir-fried, pickled, or used in numerous soups and stews.

Originating in Africa, okra is thought to have been brought to America by slaves, along with that other Southern staple, cowpeas (aka black-eyed peas). In colonial days it was more universally popular than now and was being sold in Philadelphia markets as early as 1781. In his classic 1863 book, Field and Garden Vegetables of America, Fearing Burr lists four varieties, which indicates okra was a widespread market crop by the middle of the 19th century. As recently as 1998, there were 43 varieties being offered by commercial seed houses, according to the Seed Savers Exchange's Garden Seed Inventory.

Depending on variety, okra grows from 2 feet to as much as 10 feet tall, and usually produces green pods and yellow flowers with purple centers. But there are many variations on this theme, including plants whose stems, foliage and pods range from burgundy to scarlet. My favorite is an heirloom variety called "Betty's White," which produces ivory flowers with claret centers and white to very pale-green pods.

roger_18
8/22/2007 3:09:47 PM

Comment: This is not a question,but a want to give to others what I do with my okra that is to big to fry. For us about 10 pods we run them through the food chopper. we fry off about 1/4 lb turkey sausage crisp then blend it in with the okra A little flower to make it stick togather Make into patties and fry it all to brown.






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