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How to Grow Okra (Plus Health Benefits)

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How to Grow Okra (Plus Health Benefits)

If you are looking for something new and different to grow in your garden, consider the okra plant. Scientifically named Abelmoschus esculentus, this fruit is easy to cultivate.

Additionally, not only is it great in various dishes, eating okra benefits the body in many ways due to the nutrients it contains [1].

Here is all you need to know about how to plant okra properly, plus the health benefits it brings.

Identification

What is okra? Also called ladies fingers, it is a plant that flowers and is similar to hibiscus. In fact, they are related to one another, as they are to cotton and hollyhocks.

It is grown as an annual vegetable, which means you will need to plant it again each year. The plant will not come back once it has died.

It does best in warm climates, so it is often found in the south. However, the seeds can be started indoors in Northern climates and transferred outside when it gets warmer.

The part that is harvested is the seed pods, which are long, green (or red) seed pods commonly known as “Lady Fingers” because that is what they resemble.

There are many varieties of okra; some growing into enormous plants with long pods. The Cow Horn, for example, is an heirloom variety that produces remarkable pods up to 14 inches long.

It is the largest variety, in terms of pod size, that I’ve ever seen. Clemson Spineless and Louisiana Green Velvet follow.

How to Grow and Care for Okra Plant

Depending on where you live, you will need to figure out when to start your seeds.

1. Planting

When growing okra from seed, if you live in a place where the last frost doesn’t happen until late spring or early summer, you will want to begin the seeds 2-3 weeks before the last frost inside your home.

  • Plant outside when the temperature is warm.
  • Utilize full sun.
  • They will grow at their best in soil with a PH between 6.5 and 7.0
  • Add organic fertilizer to your soil. Without proper nutrients in the soil, the plants might not give you a lot to harvest.

When planting, seeds should be about 4 inches apart and ½ inches deep. If you started them inside, the babies should be about a foot apart with rows 3 feet apart. 

Sowing from seeds directly in the ground is the best way to plant okra, though you can also grow them from transplants.

2. Maintenance

Once planted, you will want to take good care of it. The following list depicts how to care for okra plants.

  • Give them lots of water (at least an inch per week).
  • Water in the morning, so they can dry out before the night.
  • Avoid getting water on the leaves.
  • Thin your okra seedlings when they get to be 3 inches tall (replant them 1 foot apart in rows that are 3 feet apart).
  • Place mulch around the plants to get rid of weeds, or make sure to weed often.
  • Add compost a few times throughout the growing season.

3. Pest Control

As with any garden, it is important to keep vigilant of any pests that can damage your plants and ruin all that hard work.

Look for aphids, corn earworms, cabbage worms, and stink bugs mostly. Either pick the bugs off and squish them or spray them with an organic spray.

4. Companion Plants

Companion planting okra with other crops such as peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, sunflowers, and melons will help to repel cabbage worms, aphids, and other pests, as well as improve its growth.

5. Harvesting

The great news about Lady’s fingers is when you harvest one pod, another one will grow on the plant.

It usually gives an abundant harvest if it is well taken care of, so you can keep getting fruits for the growing season. After 50 to 65 days from planting, you are likely ready to begin harvesting. Don’t let them start to get hard or too big before picking.

Cut the seed pods just above the caps where the stems meet the rest of the plant. Pods should be about 2-3 long about every other day.

You will know when the growing season is over when the plants stop producing pods. 

Benefits

Though the fruit has a unique taste with a slimy feel, it benefits the body in many ways.

  • Nutrient-rich. Okra is a vegetable that contains potassium, vitamins, and other nutrients that are good for your body.
  • Improves digestion & more. It can help make digestion easier, improve the look and feel of your skin, and help your vision.
  • Antioxidant-rich. Contains antioxidants that help to boost up your immune system and keep you from getting sick.
  • Good for diabetes. The drinking of okra water to decrease blood glucose levels is a popular remedy in many cultures [2].

The image below represents the picture of what an okra plant looks like.

okra plant

Where to Buy Seeds?

Find a variety of high-quality okra seeds online at SeedsNow or at your local gardening store. Varieties include Clemson Spineless, Burgundy, Silver Queen, Cow Horn, Dwarf Long Pod, and more!

What to Do With Okra?

It is best to use it within the first few days after harvesting. Of course, this is when it is freshest and will taste the best.

Besides putting it in some great dishes such as gumbo and fried okra, you can also pickle it. Pickled okra lasts long and maintains its flavor.

You can also freeze it until you are ready to use it. However, the best way to freeze is to blanch for 3 minutes and immediately place it in an ice bath. Chop it into small pieces and freeze until firm.

Cooking

There are many okra recipes, however, the most common is to boil it in saltwater for 8-10 minutes and have it alone or with butter. You can also cook it with meat or add it to soups.

Takeaway 

Now that you know more about cultivating okra and the benefits of it, all you will need to do is get the seeds and get started planting.

You can buy the seeds sold online and at most local farm stores.

Growing them is so rewarding, they are worth the wait. Not only is it a delicious vegetable, but it is also a beneficial one with many vitamins and nutrients your body needs.

Enjoy your growing season!

Sasha Brown

Blogger and lover of all things natural.

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