Know your Okra

  • Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus Moench), also known as ladies fingers or gumbo) is a flowering plant in the mallow family. 

  • It is valued for its edible green seed pods. 

  • Originating in Africa, the plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world.

  • The species is an annual or perennial, growing to 2 m tall. 

  • It is related to such species as cotton, cocoa, and hibiscus. 

  • The leaves are 10–20 cm long and broad, palmately lobed with 5–7 lobes. 

  • The flowers are 4–8 cm diameter, with five white to yellow petals, often with a red or purple spot at the base of each petal. 

  • The fruit is a capsule up to 18 cm long, containing numerous seeds.

  • Okra is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous fruits or pods containing round, white seeds. 
  • It is among the most heat and drought tolerant vegetable species in the world, but severe frost can damage the pods.

  • Okra will tolerate poor soils with heavy clay and intermittent moisture.

  • In cultivation, the seeds are soaked overnight prior to planting to a depth of 1–2 cm. 

  • Germination occurs between six days (soaked seeds) and three weeks. 

  • Seedlings require ample water.

  • The seed pods rapidly become fibrous and woody and must be harvested within a week of the fruit being pollinated to be edible.

  • The fruits are harvested when immature and eaten as a vegetable.