Okra – okra
Okra is an upright plant just like hollyhocks and bear yellow flowers with brown centers that produces 3-5 in. edible pods.
Okra is a popular vegetable in several parts of the world like India, South America, Africa, even the Caribbean. Believed to have originated from Ethiopia around the 1700s, okra is well known as the “Gumbo” in the South, a favorite spicy, thick Creole soup. The mucilaginous quality of the okra is what makes soup thick. It is also what makes it nutritious. It is a good source of Vitamins A, B vitamins like folic acid and thiamin and C and an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and potassium and pectin, a soluble type of fiber which helps in lowering blood cholesterol.
In our regional cooking, okra is one of the main ingredients in our popular dish Pinakbet, a local recipe which is comparable to Ratatouille. It is also good with other vegetables like sitaw or long beans, green papaya and saluyot or molokhiya, flavored with dashi or fish bagoong. You can also fry the breaded okra and used as a side dish. I just like steamed okra and dip in fish bagoong with fresh cooked rice.
Okra is related to hibiscus and that is why they bore similar looking flowers. It is a hardy plant and needs to be in full sun to grow well. You can start the seeds right where you want it in the garden. The seeds can be scarified before planting or soaked overnight to assure a fast germination. It is best to amend the soil before planting with organic compost or other organic materials like composted manure or mushroom compost and maybe some horticultural sand to ensure proper drainage. It is a plant that you can incorporate with your xeriscape garden because it is also drought tolerant just like the malunggay or horseradish tree.
There are two varieties of okra that I know of, the ridged type and the smooth type. The seeds my Uncle gave me is the smooth type which I like and became my favorite variety to plant.. Not only they are easy to grow, they provide me with a constant harvest all summer long. The fruits when dried can also be used for flower arrangements. I let some pods mature and when dry I would save the seeds for the next planting season. I enjoy collecting seeds. I can watch TV while I sort out all my seeds.