Abelmoschus esculentus or Hibiscus esculentus
Other Names Bhindi, Gombo, gumbo, Kacang Bendi, Kopi Arab, Ladies Fingers, Ochro, Okoro, Okra, quimbombo, Quimgombo, quingumbo
Okra is a member of the hibiscus family and an African import to the American South.
History and Folklore
Okra is an African native plant first grown in Egypt in the 12th century BCE and then throughout North Africa and the Mediterranean. It has since spread throughout the world. Ground okra seeds may have been used (among other things) by Southerners during the blockades of the Civil War as a coffee substitute.
Okra seeds can be planted about 1/2 inch deep. It also doesn't like being transplanted, so start in peat pots or direct sow after temperatures have warmed up, or grow it in a container. Okra does not like cold, so don't put it outdoors until the weather is consistently warm into the evening. Temperatures below 50 degrees will halt growth.
You should allow eight to twelve inches between plants in each direction and make sure they are placed in a sunny spot with good circulation. Place them near the back of the garden, because many varieties get quite tall. Plants grow quickly and flowers soon appear followed by buds about 60 days after sprouting.
Keeping pods picked will encourage the plant to keep producing. Keep the bed clear of weeds and mulch deeply but water sparingly.
Plant okra near peppers as it provides protection to them from sun and wind damage.
Harvesting & Storage
Cut young pods from the plant shortly after they appear. If you wait too long they will get tough. How long is too long depends on the variety. Refer to the instructions that came with your seeds or experiment. 3 inches is a good general rule. Once you start, you'll need to keep harvesting every two days until the weather gets cold.
Okra can be trimmed, blanched, patted dry and frozen. Before using frozen okra, thaw completely and pat dry. If you fry okra, try slicing and breading it then freezing it in meal sized portions for future use. Okra can also be pickled.
Okra is a suitable offering for many Orishas.
Okra contains powerful masculine energy and can be added to achieve balance or to increase masculine energy in a mixture.
If your okra gets too tough for eating, dry it and use it to make crafts like you would gourds.
Okra is high in fiber. It helps stabilize blood sugar. Its mucilage binds cholesterol and toxins in the body. It is also cleansing to the colon and encourages the growth of healthy bacteria.
Okra is a necessary ingredient in gumbo and is also delicious breaded and fried and pickled. It is also delicious grilled on skewers over hot coals.
Okra prepared with lemon juice is said to be an effective aphrodisiac. More practically, both are purifying and soothing to the digestive tract.
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