November 4, 2018
I really like to grow this vegetable in my edible home landscape. If you don’t already know, this is okra! Southern Gardening is at Truck Crops in Crystal Springs and I’m lovin’ the okra trials. Okra is a plant that’s synonymous with vegetable lovers in the south. But it evolved in northern Africa and it’s believed the first okra seeds were brought to North America by African slaves. The okra flower is gorgeous and is obvious that it’s a cousin of our garden hibiscus. The flower color is a nice creamy yellow and all of them have a deep reddish-purple throat. The fruit are classified as a pentagon-shaped capsule up to 8-inches long. Growing up I always wondered what those little wagon wheels were in the vegetable soup. The leaves add a coarse texture to the garden and they’re big, more than 8 inches in diameter. The leaves are palmately lobed with some being broad and others deeply cut. There are a lot of great varieties but I like two heirloom selections. Clemson Spineless, an All-America Selection in 1939, are vigorous plants producing dark green grooved pods. The other is Hill Country Red. I just love the big fat reddish-green pods. The plants also have red stems that add that pop of color. When your okra begins to produce, watch it every day as the pods grow very quickly. I always harvest them while they're tender and about three inches long. Whether you like okra in Gumbo, pickled or like me, fried, this is a great plant to put into you edible landscape. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman and I’ll see you next time on Southern Gardening.