Originally, Okra comes from northern Africa, where it still grows wild. This unusual member of the hibiscus family has an important part in African, Mediterranean and Oriental cuisine.
It is a culinary tradition in the southern states of America, where it is used both as a side dish and in a variety of recipes including gumbos and stews. It is also a popular vegetable in the south of India, where it is mostly used in dry curries.
Okra 'Clemson Spineless' is a spineless variety that was developed by the horticultural research department of Clemson University in South Carolina. It was introduced in 1939 and immediately won the AAS award in that same year.
Producing compact, strong plants with prolific bright green pods, the vigorous plants produce exceptional yields of tender, less fibrous pods over a longer season. Today Clemson Spineless is still the market standard.
Although the typical northern European climate is far cooler that the okra plant’s native habitat, you will find that they can still produce a prolific crop under protection. In warmer areas they will do well when planted in a sunny sheltered position.
Often referred to as lady's fingers okra is a vigorous cut-and-come-again vegetable. Keep cutting the pods every day or two, and they will keep on coming.
To make the most of an Okra crop you will need to try and mimic their natural habitat as much as possible and this means a well-drained and sheltered position with plenty of sun.
In the typical northern European climate, okra is not a reliable open field crop but can be successful with protection under glass. It will grow in ordinary garden soil but does best in fertile loam, particularly where a nitrogen-fixing crop, such as early peas, grew previously. Keep them watered, but make sure to provide good drainage, as they do not like to keep their feet wet for extended periods.
Soak the seeds overnight to encourage germination. Germination 5 to 14 days. Ideal growing temperatures 21 to 32ºC (70 to 90ºF).
In warm climates you can grow outdoors and direct sow the Okra seeds while in cool areas the plants are best grown in the greenhouse or in a sheltered sunny position. In hot summer areas, plant a first crop in the early spring and a second crop in June.
In short-season areas, start plants indoors six weeks before setting them out, three to four weeks after the last frost date.
Sow seeds indoors in individual pots. Sow two seeds per peat pot and clip off the weaker seedling.
Transplant to larger pots as the plants grow larger.
Sow seeds when the threat of frosts has past and temperatures are reliably around 18ºC (64ºF).
Sow the seeds 1cm (½in) deep in light soil and 2cm (1in) deep in heavy soil; space 7cm (3in) apart in rows 7cm (3in) apart. Thin seedlings to 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) apart, always leaving the strongest of the young plants.
The plants require plenty of water over the growing period so mulch and fertilise the soil throughout the summer in order to maintain a good level of nutrients within the soil.
When okra is 10cm (4in), mulch to keep out weeds and conserve moisture. Fertilise once a month with a natural fertiliser such as fish emulsion or seaweed, or feed with a compost tea, such as comfrey or nettle.
About 50 to 60 days after planting, edible pods will start to appear. Pods are ideal when 5 to 10cm long, they get very tough and stringy when over mature. If a few pods slip by you and grow into giants, cut them off to keep them from exhausting the plant.
New pods grow quickly, check your okra plants every other day for new fruit and harvest them straight away. Use pruning shears to cut the stems of the pods and leave a short stub of stem attached.
They, so harvest daily with a sharp knife when they are no more than finger sized and when stems are still tender and easy to cut. Pick frequently and the plants will keep producing until killed by frost.
Be sure to remove and compost any mature pods you might have missed earlier as this will encourage the plant to grow more pods. Because it's self-pollinated, seeds can be saved for next year from the late season pods.
Some people suffer uncomfortable itching from contact with okra's stiff leaf hairs, so wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when gathering your okra or plant 'Clemson Spineless', a spineless variety.
Originally, Abelmoschus esculentus, Okra, commonly known as Lady's Fingers originates from northern Africa, where it still grows wild along the White Nile, which drains the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia.
This unusual member of the hibiscus family, the Malvaceae has an important part in African, Mediterranean and Oriental cuisine.
It seems to have spread out of Africa to the Middle East and to India by the time of Christ. It was first reported in the New World in Brazil in 1658, probably originating from Africa with early slave trade.
The name Okra is thought to be a corruption of 'nkru-ma,' a name used by the Asante people (tribes from modern day Ghana) for the plant.
Some food historians want to give the French-Creoles credit for popularising the vegetable, known to them as 'gumbo'. But the name gumbo - a common name used for okra in parts of the Gulf Coast - is also taken from a Bantu word 'kigombo', so the Creoles almost certainly learned of the vegetable from slaves.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2.5gms Average Seed Count 35 Seeds Common Name Lady's Fingers. Heritage (1939 USA) Family Malvaceae Genus Abelmoschus Species esculentus Cultivar Clemson Spineless Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Fruit Deep Green Time to Sow Early April to End May. Eight weeks before the last frosts Time to Harvest 50 to 60 days