How Much is Enough? Growing Okra

Friends Drift Inn Farm – Gardening

Okra for Everyone!

Cowhorn Okra

Okra for Everyone!

Pickled or fried I love okra! Put it in soups and gumbo. Pickle some for cocktail garnishes. Bake some for amazing snacks. (Yes baked like a potato chip…do you to question Nathalie Dupree?)

Scared of the Slime?

I’ve only had one recipe come out slimy. I think it’s all about preparation. Don’t worry, I’ll have some recipe ideas for you when the time comes. If you are gluten free, consider okra as a thickening agent replacing wheat flour.

How much should you grow?

Most folks would do well with a 12 foot row. We’re not most folks.

Last year, I grew a 50 foot row of Cowhorn Okra. A tall plant, I used it as a “barrier crop” hoping to preserve seed purity of some of my other more rare tomatoes and beans. Okra production was secondary.

A bonus, the Japanese beetles preferred okra to other more precious crops….and the okra still thrived.

Farmer Ken at Thackeray Farms Charleston SC suggests once okra pods start coming on tough, cut the okra plants down to about knee height, and they will come back with a new flush…..once again producing tender okra. In Charleston, South Carolina, they have a longer growing season than us. Farmer Ken says they cut okra back in August. If you try this, let me know. I’m curious!

Was 50 feet enough?

I canned about 30 pints of okra pickles, and should have canned 70. I froze about 12 quarts, and should have froze more. I gave away bushels I should have kept.

Because no one here grows okra, my okra pickles were a big hit with friends. “Friends” you know the people who sneak in your pantry and walk away clinking with ill gotten gains. Giggles

How fast does it grow?

Cowhorn Okra matures at about 60 days and goes right on up until a hard frost. Acclaimed Southern cook Edna Lewis mentioned she used to pick the stuff twice a day. It’s that prolific!

My hero, chef Sean Brock grows the Choppee Okra variety, a heritage selection originating with the Choppee Indians of South Carolina. Both Choppee, and the Alabama Red take a few more days, about 70.

How hard is it to grow?

Okra Seed

EASY! The seeds are large, one of those seeds that’s easy for kids to handle. I soak okra seeds overnight before planting in a rich soil. After that, I might run a hoe through the row a couple of times. That’s all I do.

If you are planning on saving seed, okra requires a quarter mile of isolation.

When we’ve picked all the okra we can possibly eat, pickle or give away we let the remaining pods dry on the plant.

Harvest dried pods just before frost.

Seeds remove easily from pods. I put them on a cookie sheet for a couple days to dry, and then throw in a sack for next year’s crop.

Okra Dried Pods
Couldn’t be easier!

Okra for everybody.

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Okra Pods
Make Okra Pickles
Okra Pickle Recipe from Virginia Willis

About Joyce Pinson

Joyce Friend Pinson is a regional farm-to-table columnist for the Appalachian-News Express. She is a local television host. Her column show and blog, Friends Drift Inn, explores food, gardening, and real life farm-to-table stories from the perspective of a baby boomer in Appalachia. Joyce has a background in agriculture, media, and small business. Joyce is an heirloom gardening addict and home canner. She has a penchant for big hats, pointy toed shoes, and bourbon. Along with her husband Charlie, Joyce really does live in a barn where they ballroom dance. And laugh. And cook. And giggle.