Okra Plant Profile
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is a fast-growing annual vegetable that loves the heat of summer. It is grown for its edible seed pods, which have a savory flavor similar to green beans. It originated in Ethiopia and was grown by the ancient Egyptians.
Okra is a member of the Malvaceae plant family and is related to cotton, cacao, hollyhock, and hibiscus. You can see the similarity in its hibiscus-like flowers.
Okra requires full sun in soil with good drainage. Soak the okra seeds overnight and plant them after the last frost has passed in spring.
Harvest each pod with its stem attached. Cut the stem as close as possible to its base using sharp shears. Pick the small pods often and before they become big and woody. If you missed some and wonder if they are still edible, bend back the tip with your thumb. If it snaps off cleanly, they are still okay to eat.
Well-established okra plants will tolerate slightly cooler nights in early autumn, but will slow in growth and productivity. Okra plants decline soon after a light frost and should be removed from the garden in fall.
The most common Okra cultivar is ‘Clemson Spineless’, which is a green cultivar that is relatively smooth, hence the term “spineless.” There are also several recent introductions of red Okras (sometimes called magenta or purple Okra). These taste the same as the green ones, but have more anthocyanins in them giving them the distinct coloring.
Okra: You Can Grow That!
The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine as part of our Plant Profile series for Mid-Atlantic USA gardeners.
Audio and text by Kathy Jentz
Video and editing by Brandie Bland
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~ Podcast: GardenDC