(photo courtesy of wired.com)
Okra was brought to this continent from Africa in the 1600′s,a tropical plant, it found a home in the South in many dishes such as Gumbo and Stews or as a side dish.
I personally never tried this strange looking vegetable until I was stationed in North Carolina, where I learned to love dishes other than the hearty German dishes I grew up with; one of them being Okra.
So where can it grow?
Well this little guy will grow far outside the deep south, basically a rule of thumb is wherever you can grow corn you can grow Okra. It prefers full sun, not shade and will grow decently in “normal” soil but prefers a more loamy soil especially where peas (nitrogen fixer) have grown.
How can I grow it
- If you are in the South (humid, long growing season) then plant your first crops in early spring and another crop around June.
- If you live in a climate with a shorter growing season, Northeast, Western Mountain States, Alaska, then start the plants about 6 weeks before you plant ( roughly about a month after the last frost).
- Plant two seeds per pot and cut off the seedling that seems weaker.
- When planting directly into the garden, sow the seed 1/2 inch deep in lighter soil and 1 inch in hardier soil
- Space the plants about 3 inches apart with rows roughly 36 inches from each other. After they begin to grow larger thin the weaker plants to a distance of 1 1/2 feet to 2 feet from each other.
- When the Okra gets around 4 inches in height, lay down mulch, and weed as best you can to help keep moisture in the ground (this is much more important in the dryer climates)
- Every month or so, lay down compost and/or worm castings/worm juice (see my Youtube Video on Worm Composting Bins)
- If you live in an area with longer & hotter summers cut the plants back in June’ish and fertilize to get a second crop.
- Continue to pick the mature Okra to keep seed heads continuing to produce. The pods begin to become mature around 50-60 days from planting (depending on climate and sun). Harvest Daily with a knife when they get to be around a finger size and stems are still tender
- If you wait too long the pods will become VERY tough and…not enjoyable to eat.
- They plants will continue to produce until frost.
HOW DO I COOK IT?
- Southernliving.com has their “10 Best recipes” such as Pecan encrusted Okra, Pickled Okra, Fried Okra Salad, Okra Creole, etc.
- I prefer Grilled Okra or the “Indian Style” Okra, or you can just sautee in butter with salt and pepper for an easy dish
- Okra can be “Slimy” if you overcook it, a great article on NPR helps to give some tips on how to make it more crispy and less slimy
Okra is a easy crop to grow as long as you treat it right, try it today!