Pick Okra at Peak of Perfection

When growing okra, daily vigilance is a must. Not because of bugs or disease–okra are pretty tolerant on these counts–but because of harvest. Okra will range in size from an inch to six inches–a big difference.

Okra in varying stages of maturity

And in this case, size DOES matter. Those six-inch okra might look grand and delightful, but you don’t want to eat them. They’re tough and not nearly as tasty as their younger counterparts. Go figure.

Anyhoo, speaking of their younger counterparts, tender young okra are most definitely what you’re after when it comes to harvesting okra. The small ones are tasty straight off the vine, tossed in a salad, soaked in a tomato stew… There are a host of ways you can use okra, particularly if you enjoy Cajun-style cooking. YUM. My son prefers them Southern-style which means rolled in cornmeal and deep-fried.

Okra can be frozen for longer term storage by snipping off both ends and sealing in an airtight container in your freezer. Cut into bite-sized pieces before or after freezing, your choice. And don’t dismay if you missed the peak of perfection when harvesting your okra–the larger ones are excellent for seed-saving purposes (and you are saving your seeds for sustainable gardening, aren’t you?) All you have to do is clip these larger pods from the plant, allow to dry for a few days, then slice them open, collect your seeds and allow these to dry for about 24 hours. Place them in one of your custom homemade seed packets and you’re good for another season!

okra for seed

If you’re not growing okra in your garden and need convincing, how about consider the health benefits?  Okra contains vitamin C, calcium and potassium.   But even better, it contains glutathione, an antioxidant and cancer fighter which attacks carcinogens and ushers them away from cells, into the urine, and eventually out of the body.  Studies have shown encouraging signs for the role of glutathione in preventing the development of oral and throat cancers, too.   For more information on the natural health benefits of food in general, check out the book, The Doctors Book of Food Remedies written by Selene Yeager and the editors of Prevention magazine – another favorite of mine.

Happy gardening!