Warm-season vegetable from tropical Asia. Large, erect, bushy plant to 6 ft. tall, with big, bold, deeply lobed leaves; the edible pods are produced in leaf joints. Grows well under the same conditions as sweet corn.
Plant when danger of frost is past and the ground has warmed to 70°F/21°C. To speed germination, soak seeds for 24 hours before planting; use only seeds that are swollen. Leave 2 1/2–4 ft. between rows; thin plants to 1–1 1/2 ft. apart. Apply a complete fertilizer when the first pods set, again when the plants are shoulder high. Begin picking when pods are 2–4 in. long (wear gloves, since the pods are prickly). Pick every 2 days or so; plants stop producing if the pods are not harvested. Okra takes 55 to 60 days from planting to harvest.
‘Annie Oakley’ and ‘Cajun Delight’ are early varieties that mature in areas with a short growing season. ‘Burgundy’ has red leaves and pods, looks attractive in containers. Grown in a large tub in a warm spot, a single okra plant can yield a crop large enough to make it worth growing. Okra is used to flavor and thicken soups and gumbos; it can also be sauteed, steamed, or batter-fried.
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