This All-America Selections winner dates back to 1939 and is a prolific producer. The most popular use for okra may be as a thickening agent for gumbo and soups, with its gooey insides. It is also quite tasty when baked, broiled, roasted, fried, steamed, canned and pickled, quite the versatile veggie! Before you even get to the fruits, the plant itself produces gorgeous flowers, similar to hibiscus blooms, making it an edible ornamental. The leaves are spineless, making harvesting of the 3" pods easy work; however, wear long sleeves and gloves when working around okra plants. They can cause irritation and even cause allergic reactions in some people.
Dried okra pods can be used in dried floral arrangements for an interesting look. Keeping the pods well-picked will force the plant to produce more, right into fall. Large, old pods should be removed immediately as they will reduce the productivity of your plant. Okra is low in calories and a good source of vitamin C, iron, calcium, potassium, fiber and manganese. The plants can reach 48" in height and appreciate plenty of space for good air circulation.
Soil Prep -- Well-drained, rich and well-composted. Do not plant where squash vines or sweet potatoes were planted the previous year.
Water Day/Week -- Low to average water needs, about 1" per week. Keep moist but not wet, allowing the soil to dry between watering. Okra is happier on the dry side and definitely does not like wet conditions. Water deeply at the roots, avoiding the foliage.
Harvest -- AVOID HANDLING OKRA PLANTS WITH BARE HANDS AND ARMS! The plants can cause skin irritations or even an allergic reaction in some people. Once the plant starts to flower, you'll need to start harvesting in 4 days. The 3" pods are tender and are the optimal harvesting size. Handle with care as the pods can bruise easily. Larger pods tend to be tough and fibrous. Keep picking every day or two to keep your plant producing. Remove any overgrown or damaged pods to keep the plant producing into fall.
Storing -- Okra may be stored in the refridgerator in a paper bag or wrapped in a paper towel in a perforated plastic bag for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 12 months after blanching whole for 2 minutes. Cooked okra can be stored (tightly covered) in the refridgerator for 3 to 4 days.