I was excited to be able to do horticulture in my own backyard and grow okra in pots… I just love movable containers so that I can place them anywhere I find free and suitable place for them!
Okra, or okro, (also known as ochro, or lady’s finger, or bamia, or gumbo) is one of the popular nutritious vegetables of North-East African origin, and is also well known in many English-speaking countries.
The okra is a flowering plant in the Mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of West African, Ethiopian, and South Asian origins. However, the plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world.
This species is a perennial, often cultivated as an annual in temperate climates, and it often grows to around 2 meters tall. It is related to such species as cotton, cocoa, and hibiscus. Okra’s leaves are 10–20 cm long and broad, palmately lobed with 5–7 lobes.
The flowers are 4–8 cm in diameter, with 5 white-to-yellow petals, often with a red or purple spot at the base of each petal. The fruit is a capsule up to 18 cm long with pentagonal cross-section, containing numerous seeds.
Note: Abelmoschus esculentus is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous fruits or pods containing round, white seeds. It is among the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetable species in the world and will tolerate soils with heavy clay and intermittent moisture, but frost can damage the pods.
In cultivation, the seeds are soaked overnight prior to planting to a depth of 1–2 cm. Germination occurs between six days (soaked seeds) and three weeks. Seedlings require ample water. The seed pods rapidly become fibrous and woody, and, to be edible, must be harvested within a week of the fruit having been pollinated. The fruits are harvested when immature and eaten as a vegetable.
The okra comes in 2 varieties:
The red okra has the same flavor as the more popular green okra and differs in color only. When cooked, the red okra pods also turn green.
Okra diseases:The most common disease afflicting the okra plant is verticillium wilt, often causing a yellowing and wilting of the leaves. Other diseases include powdery mildew in dry tropical regions, leaf spots, and root-knot nematodes.
The plant products are ‘mucilaginous,’ resulting in the characteristic “goo” [that is slim] when the seed pods are cooked. But it is good for you because the mucilage contains soluble fiber.
Some people prefer to minimize the sliminess by keeping the pods intact, and brief cooking (for instance stir-frying can help to achieve this). Cooking it with some acidic ingredients such as a few drops of lemon juice, tomatoes, or vinegar may also help.
Alternatively, the pods can be sliced thinly, and cooked for a long time so the mucilage dissolves, as in gumbo. The immature pods may be pickled.
Delicious stir fried okra
Okra leaves may be cooked in a similar way to the greens of beets or dandelions. The leaves are also eaten raw in salads. Interestingly enough, the okra seeds may be roasted and ground to form a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.
When importation of coffee was disrupted by the American Civil War in 1861, the Austin State Gazette said: “An acre of okra will produce seed enough to furnish a plantation with coffee in every way equal to that imported from Rio.
The greenish-yellow edible okra oil is pressed from okra seeds. It has a pleasant taste and odor, and is abundant in unsaturated fats such as oleic acid and linoleic acid. The oil content of some varieties of the seed can be quite high, about 40%.
Indeed, in one controlled trial Oil yields from okra crops are also high. The yield was exceeded only by that of sunflower oil at 794 kg/ha. A study found that a sample contained 15% oil. Also, another 2009-study found that okra oil is very suitable for use as a biofuel!
Health benefits of okra veggie
Okra has a long list of health benefits. It main benefits include: detoxification, sugar control, bone health, etc. Okra promotes healthypregnancy as well. Indeed, okra’s high levels of vitamin A, B vitamins (B1, B2, B6), and vitamin C, and traces of zinc and calcium, make it an ideal vegetable to eat during pregnancy.
Nonetheless, the okra is a rich source of dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. It is often recommended by nutritionists in cholesterol controlling (it lowers total cholesterol levels) and weight reduction.
And, it is certainly worth noting that, a new benefitof including the okra in your diet has been considered recently. Namely, the okra has been suggested to naturally help manage blood sugar in diabetes cases of type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
The okra is also a very popular ’health talisman’ due to its high fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid) content. The okra is also known for being high in antioxidants. Moreover, the okra is a very good source of both calcium and potassium.
Other health benefits of the okra plant include: digestive health, improved vision, boosted skin health, protected infant health, cancer prevention, strong bones, improved cardiovascular health, immune system help, lowered blood pressure, and good heart health.
Step by step guide to growing okra in containers
I remember the ‘trick’ my granny Vivien Fairchild from Colorado used to make me eat her favorite okra dish. She used to say, “If you eat okra, you will become an expert in making friends!”
So, I did forcefully eat a lot of it to enlarge my circle of playmates, but from this distance in time, looking at my modest social skills, I can only say that it was just a big fat granny’s lie to make me eat! But you never know, when the okra may bring this extra ‘social benefit!’ Haaaah…
Nevertheless, the okra is a very nice vegetable to grow as well as to eat even raw. Growing the okra plant can be made very easy. If you have been thinking how to grow okra in containers, since you do not have any garden space for extra planting, then this article is made for you.
First of all, growing the okra in pots means that you must find a sunny spot in your garden, because the okra plants love a good ‘shower of sunlight’ and they grow up to 7 ft. tall (around 2 meters).
Planting okra seeds
Using a large container/pot is a must for okra’s growth (I grew mine in 10-liter containers). I had around 10 of them, prepared for sowing. And sowing the seeds was a piece of cake! The seeds were sown in those containers: 2 in each of them. It took around 5 days for them to germinate. And this is my special pride: I got almost 100% germination outcome!
Here and now, I am also ready to share my secret: I used treated seeds. For your info, treated seeds are those that are pre-coated with fungicide (Thiram) to avoid calamities likedamping off. Treated seeds usually have a distinct color coated on them to differentiate them from other untreated seeds, and also to indicate that they are coated and hence poisonous!
Planting okra seedlings
Growing okra in pots
After they start showing their ’true leaves,’ thin them to just 1 leaf per plant. Yes, I know it is difficult to remove the plant that you so passionately sowed. Yet, take my word for it, if you let them grow in a bunch, none of them will yield appropriately. So, go ahead and thin them just like you are pruning other plants.
I managed to grow them using hydroponic nutrients which I previously made for tomatoes. I also have one container having plain soil, which has okra growing in it. You can grow them in soil as well, and you won’t see a ‘world of difference’ in the yield.
For soil, I used: Red soil + cocopeat + compost + bone meal
For hydroponics, I used:
Plain cocopeat only.
Update: After a month and 4 days since germination, they have grown about 2 feet tall and are flowering every other day. You can see lot of pods growing. It is better to grow about 5-10 plants of okra since the plants yield a pod almost every other day and if you have 10 plants growing, you get 30-40 pods every week. It is not bad at all, right friends?
Okra flowers and fruits
The red variety you see below is called Alabama Red. It is just a stout variety of okra. Everyone who saw this, got real excited, myself included! It gets matured very quickly. And as it matures, it develops a red-colored skin.
Okra variety Alabama Red
You don’t see the red coloration in the picture below since I picked them quite early for a specific reason (to avoid stealing them that is). First come, first served, as they say, haaah…
So, you see, growing okra is very easy. But, you have towatch out foraphids (and mealy bugs) during the growing season. So, do check under the leaves for signs of infestations. Aphids are usually disseminated by ants.
Note: You can control ants by sprinkling turmeric powder (or boric acid) or even pesticide chalk such as Laxman Rekha. Mealy bugs can be controlled by mixing spirit (rubbing alcohol that is) and water in 1:1 ratio, and then spraying your okra all over. It controls aphids as well.
Or you can simply prepare this easy ‘anti-ant’ mixture:
1. Mix a teaspoon of neem oil and dish soap together well so that they form a light brown colored cream.
Mix it with a liter of water and spray. It worked for me superb, but you ought to spray it continuously for a whole week.
I hope this will help you start your okra pots this hot season!