creamy yellow flower of okra bhut bhindi

Spotllight on OKRA

Okra is a plant that possibly originated in Ethiopia although there is some disagreement on this. It was known by the ancient Egyptians. If so it may have spread east round the Mediterranean and down into India and west into Nigeria and then into the United States and Brazil. There are many dishes in these areas that use okra such as Gumbo.

Okra is a tropical or warm temperate climate plant. It needs warmth to germinate and light to grow well. It is drought tolerant and can tolerate variations in moisture availability.

Although it is a perennial it is frequently grown as an annual crop. In northern climates it is frost tender.

Sow seeds indoors in March or April in a moist but not waterlogged compost. Seeds may achieve quicker germination with soaking and germination at 20oC takes 6 days to 3 weeks. Cover the seeds to their depth with compost. Cover the seed tray with a propagator lid or enclose in a plastic bag to retain moisture.

Once seeds have germinate ensure that they have access to good light and that temperatures are consistently 16oC or over, both day and night. Once seeds have 2 leaves, pot on into individual pots and ensure a constant temperature of 16oC. Plant out in May-June once all risk of frost has passed. 

Varieties such as Clemsons Spineless will need staking as they can grow to 1.5 m or more. Some varieties such as Bhut Bhindi are lower growing and more adapted to a temperate climate. Even in a temperate climate Okra needs a bright, sunny position to give the daylight hours for flowering and fruiting. It will be more productive in hotter summers and with regular picking of young fruits so would be better grown in a greenhouse.

Some people find the mucilaginous texture of okra unappealing but this may be reduced by cooking in something acidic such as tomatoes.