Like many gardeners, I am always interested in trying something new. What if a new crop or variety proved worthy and “took root” in our home? One day, my curious eyes fell on okra and I decided to learn more about this mysterious culture up close and personal by all means.
I planted only two bushes in the first season, and the harvest was very small. Although it did not allow me to fully enjoy the crop, it did show me that okra, with its very good taste, is worth growing on a large scale.
After that, I decided to grow a lot of okra, but it turned out that this vegetable did not give me any problems the first year, which was really lucky. After that, I couldn’t harvest okra for several years in a row.
And only in the third season, I was able to experience again the pleasant oily taste of the pods of this unusual plant. In this article, I would like to dissect the problems related to okra cultivation so that gardeners can get a considerable harvest in the first season.
DIFFICULTIES DURING THE SEEDLING STAGE OF OKRA
The main problem of okra in the seedling stage is the tendency of excessive uprooting. The sprouts of okra emerge from the ground already full of grass, 2inch (6cm) or even 4inch (10cm) long.
This later causes the seedlings to twist, snag and twist each other, complicating picking. To avoid this, containers with seedlings are initially kept on the south window or moved to a minimum distance from the plant lights.
Many sources state that okra does not like to be transplanted, but I have not noticed that untransplanted hay plants are greatly affected. Also, if the seedlings do overgrow, doing so can help bury long stalks.
Still, I prefer to sow two seeds in separate half-liter pots from the start; okra germination is generally good and the extra seedlings can be pulled right out. In this case, I initially fill the cup half full and gradually sprinkle the soil on as the seedlings grow and new roots form on the stems.
One of the most serious problems with growing okra is growing it in the open. It is at this stage that I have completely lost beautiful, strong seedlings many times. In fact, although okra can later grow a huge plant with a thick trunk that becomes like the palm of your hand, okra seedlings are very fragile.
Unbeknownst to me, I have traditionally tried to plant okra with tomatoes and peppers in mid-May. But the results were devastating for okra, and all the usual crops withstood the test without serious problems.
Since okra has very thin and weak stems during the seedling stage, it was a problem not to suffer losses even when transported by car to the planting site. What to say if the weather turns windy at this time of year… …
Another problem is the temperature. Bamia is sensitive to low temperatures and if most of the vegetables freeze to death, even temperatures close to zero degrees can be fatal for thermophilic okra.
It was the combination of wind, rain, and cold temperatures in May that caused me to completely lose seedlings planted in consecutive years that were strong, healthy, and viable.
THE BENEFITS OF OKRA SEEDLINGS
After summing up my negative experiences, I concluded that planting okra seedlings in May was too risky in our climate, which meant I had to significantly reconsider the timing of sowing.
Most sources recommend planting okra seedlings from mid-March to April. However, the reason this early is recommended is most likely because sometimes you need to wait for 2 to 3 weeks for okra to germinate.
My experience has shown that the most common soaking of okra seeds in preparation for “normal immune system hormones” greatly reduces the time to germination, with seedlings of most varieties appearing in a few days (up to a week).
After germination, okra begins to develop at a tremendous rate, and if sown in March, the seedlings reach a considerable size by May, which increases the risk of breaking off long stems for various reasons.
It has been proven that even garter stems are not saved until they harden during growth, because they also break where the garter stems are.
Therefore, I decided to give up early sowing altogether and sowed only at the beginning of May. This was done in the same way as when planting in early spring – indoors, on the south windowsill, with the seeds pre-soaked and in individual cups.
The seedlings reached their permanent place only in the last days of May, when it was true summer weather, without the threat of cold strong winds and significant cold spells. Due to the late sowing, the seedlings did not overgrow and survived the transport process better, and rooted faster.
In the summer sun, okra plants started growing immediately and soon reached a considerable size. Some of the specimens that received the most sunlight were over 5 feet (1.5 m) tall with huge forked leaves, creating a tropical look. okra bloomed at the end of July and I was able to harvest them in August.
THE CHALLENGE OF HARVESTING OKRA
Right away I want to focus on the fact that okra is a relatively low-yielding plant. To collect a significant number of pods, to taste them, and to eat enough of them, you need a small plantation; a few bushes won’t do.
When the okra pods grow to 1.6-2inch (4-5cm) in size, they are ready to harvest. Be sure to have scissors or pruning shears ready when you go to pick the fruit, as it is very difficult to tear the pods off the stems by hand.
The anatomy of this plant is such that the fruit is located in the axils and if you accidentally rip it off, the leaves underneath will shrivel up and weaken it.
Sometimes it is tempting to hold the fruit longer so that the size of the fruit will increase. However, the fibers harden quickly, the outer fibers become thicker, and the pods are not suitable for consumption.
The main indicator of whether you have harvested the fruit in time is whether it is easy to cut. Young fruits are easy to cut, but if it is difficult to cut the pods, these overripe fruits do not soften even after cooking and are best thrown away. There is no need to choose seeds from unripe okra pods as they will also become soft and tasty after cooking.
The taste of okra is not easy to describe, but if you are a fan of shoots and beans and a lover of vegetable dishes, you will love it. For me, it’s a modified version of string beans that is more creamy and richer.
THE VARIETIES OF OKRA I GROW
This season I tried out three of the most marketable okra varieties. I’d like to tell you a little about each of them.
Okra: Lady finger Okra
This one is the most affordable, and you can find seeds of this variety in many retail stores. However, of the three varieties tested, this one is an outsider. This okra has the narrowest pods and the thinnest pod walls, resulting in a lack of fleshiness.
They are pentagonal in section and have a wall thickness of 1 mm. The tops of the fruits are covered with hairs and have a lettuce color. The height of the bush is also lower than the others, about 15inch (40cm).
In terms of taste: okra ‘Lady finger’ is not different from other varieties, so to form an opinion on whether you like okra or not, you can grow this variety with confidence.
Okra: Eagle Pass Okra
It is this variety of plants that give the tallest shrub – more than 0.6inch (1.5m) in height, with a thick trunk of 1.2inch (3cm) in diameter and large leaf plates – about 12inch (30cm).
The most striking thing about Eagle Pass Okra, besides its impressive size, is the pods. They have the same lettuce color as the “ladybug” and are covered with small stripes. However, the pods are made up of many sides, and when cut open, one finds fruits with significantly thicker walls – 2-3 mm. This, of course, affects the overall yield, and the multifaceted pods themselves are significantly thicker.
In addition, such a star-shaped structure gives the fruit a more novel appearance, resembling gears and stars in parts. The variety is described as having a low mucilage content, which is an added advantage for some growers, as it does not require additional treatment to remove excess mucilage juice.
Despite its strong trunk, this okra has to be tied to a stand because the adult “palms”, although they do not break, can tip sideways in the wind.
Okra: Alabama Red Okra
The main difference of this variety is that the trunk and petiole are dark red in color, while the leaves are green, although the veins are also slightly reddish. Its flowers are similar to those of other okra cultivars, with lemon-colored petals and a small burgundy area in the center.
Because of the variety name, you may sometimes think that the pods of this okra plant should be red, but this is not the case. Also light green in color, the only difference is a small maroon spot at the top of the pod.
The softness of this variety stays longer and does not grow hard even when it grows to 4inch (10cm). It also offers a sweet, aromatic flavor that most other varieties do not have.” Alabama Red” is quite tall, with adult plants reaching 1 to 1.5 meters in height.
There are many interesting varieties of okra. You can purchase the seeds from the collectors. In the future, I’m planning to experiment with new varieties of okra in my way. To me, Eagle Pass Okra it’s the best one so far, but we will keep experiment in next season.