Okra – A Traditional Southern Crop

Okra is probably one of my favorite vegetables, ever. I know a lot of people don’t like it because the vegetable can have a “slimy” texture, but when cooked correctly this texture issue pretty much goes away. If you recall from my previous post (https://greenthumbilina.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/composting-101-whiteflies-killed-my-garden/), I pulled out all of the remaining vegetable plants except for the okra. These okra plants looked the best out of all of the ones growing in the squarefoot garden. Maybe they were the most resilient against the whiteflies.

This vegetable is called a traditional Southern crop because it thrives in warm weather and is easy to grow AND looks pretty with it’s flowers. Interestingly, okra is native to Africa. Okra requires full sun and loamy soil (sandy/silty) to grow. I grew these okra plants in the squarefoot gardens from seeds and I also transplanted more seedlings (seeds grown in the AeroGarden)  in the raised gardens located in the makeshift greenhouse.

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This photograph above depicts one of the okra plants that I tethered to a garden post using green garden ties. These ties come in handy because they are a little bit squishy but act as ties to securely fasten the plants but do not pinch the plants. Okra are tall – these plants are anywhere from 2 ft to 5 ft in height. I spaced these three plants out about 1 ft apart, which is ideal for these plants. The beautiful flower for this plant is curled up because it is pre-dusk where typically pollinating insects are not active. To the left of the flower are several budding okra.

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All three of the okra plants are budding okra – and if all goes well we will have plenty in a few more weeks! Once producing, it is recommended to cut the lower leaves to encourage more production. I have not done this yet, and I plan to in the near future.

20140908_182020Last photograph of the plants; you can see in the background the yellow sticky trap that I set up to trap whiteflies. I didn’t get a close-up shot of the trap, but there are several whiteflies as well as aphids and a fly or two. So, I still have a whitefly problem but the good news is now I have weapons to fight back. As I mentioned in my earlier post these include the sticky traps and horticultural oil.

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I was able to harvest two okra from the plants this evening. Even though I would love to wait for more okra to be on the plant at the same time, picking them off encourages more production. There are many dishes I would like to try using okra including gumbo. I’ve never made gumbo before, but I’ve eaten plenty at local restaurants so I would like to try my hand at cooking gumbo. The two I picked this evening I will slice and add to a skillet with green peppers and mushrooms to add to a pasta dish. Additionally, I have frequently cooked okra by roasting in the oven. This is probably one of the easiest dishes to make with okra (it’s also great for brussel sprouts). Coat the vegetable in olive oil and place in a gallon-size plastic bag and add salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 30 min at 400 degrees, flipping at 15 min. Enjoy 🙂

Online Resources

https://greenthumbilina.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/composting-101-whiteflies-killed-my-garden/

http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/growing-okra

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