|Abelmoschus esculentus subsp. var.||Gumbo, Lady's finger, Okra|
Okra, or lady's finger, is a flowering plant with small green pods in the mallow family Malvaceae, originating somewhere near present-day Ethiopia. The word okra is of West African origin and is cognate with "ókùrù" in Igbo.
It is an annual or perennial herbaceous plant, growing to 2 m tall, straight up with very little phototropism. 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, 5–20 cm long, containing numerous seeds.
Okra is grown throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous pods full of round, white seeds, which, when picked young, are eaten as a vegetable.
Okra is among the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetables in the world; once established, it can survive severe drought conditions. Tough frosts can kill the pods, so the plants should be protected in colder climates. Okra is harvested and eaten young as it gets very woody when mature.
Prefers a well-drained humus rich fertile soil in full sun and a pH around 6 to 6.7RH but it tolerates a wide range of soil types and pH from 5.5 to 8RH. It prefers a soil with a high potash content264. The plant requires a warm sunny position sheltered from windsRH. It likes plenty of moisture, both in the soil and in the atmosphere133. Okra is commonly cultivated in warm temperate and tropical areas for its edible seedpod, there are many named varieties183RH. Most cultivars require about 4 months from sowing before a crop is produced, though some early maturing varieties can produce a crop in 50 days in the tropics264. This species is not very hardy in Britain, it sometimes succeeds outdoors in hot summers but is really best grown in a greenhouse since it prefers daytime temperatures of 25°c or more260. Plants also dislike low night temperatures133. There are some early-maturing varieties that are more tolerant of cooler temperate conditions and these could be tried outdoorsRH. These include 'Clemson's Spineless', 'Emerald Spineless', 'Long Green' and 'Green Velvet'RH. The flowers are much visited by bees but they may require syringing in order to improve fertilization when plants are grown in a greenhouse. Plants resent being transplanted133.
Okra seeds are normally soaked overnightwp before planting and then planted 1-2 cm deepwp when the ground is warmwp; they will tolerate poor soilswp with heavy claywp and intermittent moisturewp. Germination ranges from six days (soaked seeds)wp to three weeks (watered seeds followed by a cool spell)wp. Seedlings require good wateringwp.
You may sow seeds in early spring in a warm greenhousepf. The seed germinates in 27 days at 15°c or 6 days at 35°c133. When large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frostsRH.
Pests and diseases
- 'Annie Oakley' - The slender, five-angled pods are light green in colour and 18 - 22cm long183. They are spineless and remain tender as they grow to a large size183. An F1 hybrid, it ripens earlier than open-pollinated cultivars and can therefore succeed in cooler climates, though it is still more suited to protected cultivation in Britain183k. The plants are compact, uniform and heavy yielding, reaching a height of about 1 metre183. A harvest can be produced within 45 days from sowing the seed183.
- 'Blondy' - The spineless, ribbed pods are an attractive creamy-lime in colour183. They are best picked when about 8cm long and are crisp and firm yet tender and not stringy183. A short-season cultivar for cooler regions, it can produce a crop within 48 days from sowing and has performed well in trials as far north as Canada183. The short, compact plants are up to 90cm tall and are very productive183.
- 'Burgundy' - Growing about 1 metre tall with pods up to 20cm long264. It tolerates cooler weather than many other cultivars, though still requires warmer temperatures than are usually experienced in Beitish summers.
- 'Cajun Queen' - The bright, spineless, tapered pods are about 12cm long with 6 well-defined ridges183. They have an intense flavour and a rich colour, so do not fade into the background when cooked in stews etc183. An early, productive, very hardy cultivar, it grows up to 1 metre tall and can produce a crop within 50 days from sowing the seed183.
- 'Clemson's Spineless' - An early-maturing variety that is more tolerant of cooler temperate conditions, it is worthwhile trying it outdoors in BritainRH.
- 'Dwarf Green Longpod' - Plants are up to 90cm tall with pods to 20cm264. A fast-maturing plant, it can crop within 50 days from seed264.
- 'Emerald Spineless' - An early-maturing variety that is more tolerant of cooler temperate conditions, it is worthwhile trying it outdoors in BritainRH.
- 'Green Velvet' - An early-maturing variety that is more tolerant of cooler temperate conditions, it is worthwhile trying it outdoors in BritainRH.
- 'Long Green' - An early-maturing variety that is more tolerant of cooler temperate conditions, it is worthwhile trying it outdoors in BritainRH.
- 'Pentagreen' - The five-angled, slightly spiny pods are medium-green in colour and up to 15cm long, though for best quality they should be harvested when about half that size183. An early and high-yielding cultivar, producing sturdy, compact plants from 45 - 75cm tall183. They are very productive, even in areas usually considered too cool for okras183. They can produce a crop within 55 days from sowing the seed183.
Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Okra, or Gumbo (Hibiscus esculentus) is a half- hardy plant introduced into United States and West Indies from Africa, and cultivated for its fruit pods, which are used in soups, stews, catsups, and the like (Fig. 2569). In soups and catsup, it gives body to the dish; stewed, it is mucilaginous, and while at first not agreeable to many persons, a taste for it is easily acquired. It is also dried and canned for winter use. When ripe, the black or brown white-eyed globular seeds are sometimes roasted and used as a coffee substitute.
Okra should be sown in a dry warm soil, of medium fertility and texture, after danger of frost has passed. It is important to select the correct type of land for growing okra. It should be a well-drained sandy loam, or if clay only is available it should be a loamy clay, and a soil that is not likely to become water-logged during the rainy weather. The soil should be prepared deeply and thoroughly, the deeper the better, if the soil is good. The rows should be made 3 to 5 feet apart, according to variety, and seeds dropped about 2 inches apart in the row; cover 1 or 2 inches deep. After plants are 6 inches high, thin to 1 foot apart for dwarf varieties and to about 3 feet for the largest varieties. After the plants have been cut out to a proper stand in the row. frequent cultivation should be given. This is best performed with implements that cut rather deeply. The okra plants do not throw out many lateral roots in the early stages of growth if planted on the proper kind of soil. The seedlings transplant with considerable difficulty, so they need to be started in flower-pots if an extra-early crop is desired. The pods must be gathered before the fiber develops in them: the size will vary with the variety, but if it is too "stringy" to cut with a dull case-knife it is too old. Keep all old pods cut off. The dwarf varieties are in greater favor in the South because of their habit of bearing early. A plant, constantly cropped, remains in bearing condition until frost kills it, but allowed to retain pods it suspends growth until the seeds have matured, when a second growth may take place. Okra will grow for years if not killed by frost or other adverse conditions, i. e., it makes an indeterminate growth like cotton, malva, hibiscus, and the like. For shipping, cut the stems (peduncles) an inch or so long so as to prevent wilting in transit. Pack firmly in vegetable crates. The demand for this vegetable is increasing, especially in New York City. Seed is easily grown and saved. The plant is subject to several diseases to such an extent that it is impracticable to raise a crop on certain pieces of land. Rotation is the best remedy.
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Hibiscus esculentus, Linn. (Abelmischus esculentus, Moench). Okra. Gumbo. Annual: mostly strict, 2-6 ft. or more, the sts. terete and more or less hispid: lvs. cordate in outline, 3-5-lobed or divided, the lobes ovate-pointed and coarsely toothed or notched: bracteoles very narrow, about 1 in. long: fls. solitary and axillary, on inch-long peduncles, yellow, with a red center: fr. a long ribbed pod (5-12 in. long), used in cookery. Trop. Asia.—For cult., see Okra. A large- fld. form (var. speciosus, cf. H. manihot) in Gt. 43, p. 623.
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963