Enjoying Okra

I’m planting okra this week and I’m doubling–no, tripling!–my beds this year. Why? Because I discovered just how easy it is to grow, freeze and fry these babies up for a delicious side dish to our dinner meal. While fried okra might not be the healthiest version of this veggie, it is one of the tastier versions not to mention my son’s favorite. Hint to parents: when you grow your child’s favorite vegetable, you will be amazed by how eager they are to take part in the planting, feeding and harvesting duties of said vegetable. As a woman in charge of a 4000 sq. ft. garden, I’ll take all the assistance I can get!

okra small and large

Now back to the business of growing. Okra are one of the easier veggies to manage. All you need is warm weather, a general fertilizer and water. They thrive on their own without a lot of maintenance on your part and will continually produce for an extended harvest. One thing to note about okra is size. Size does matter. Big okra are tough and un-delightful to eat. Small okra are tender and very delightful to eat, say about 2 – 3 inches in length. For those of you who are scrunching your noses right now because you can’t understand how anyone would eat the slimy pods, try them “fresh from the stem.” Freshly picked okra are not slimy, but rather crisp and delicate in flavor.

Healthy, too. Did you know that okra contains a powerful compound that shows promise for fighting cancer and heart disease? According to a study from the Emory University in Atlanta, the key component in okra is glutathione and it attacks cancer in two ways. Number one as an antioxidant, which means it hampers the effects of free radicals (unstable oxygen molecules that can damage healthy cells and cause them to become cancerous) and number two the “glutathione prevents other cancer causing chemicals called carcinogens from damaging DNA, the chemical blueprint that tells cells how to function.” ~ The Doctors Book of Food Remedies

Okra in varying stages of maturity

As if that wasn’t enough, okra contains Vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. Now I ask you, what’s not to love? You can grow them with little effort, eat them fresh, fry them to a golden brown or toss them in a gumbo. Some folks simply boil them with tomatoes and say, “Ahhhh…”

golden fried okra

However you choose to enjoy your okra, please do. This vegetable is one every southern gardener should have in their garden.  Plant them about 3/4 in. deep, about 12 in. apart. Good companions for okra include peppers, eggplant and basil. Bad companions = none. Like I said, “Who doesn’t like okra?” Warm weather, full sun, moderate food and low to moderate water and you’re in business. You can expect sprouts in about a week or two. Be patient! You don’t want to find yourself digging up sprouts as you replant because you didn’t think your seeds germinated. (Happened to me this weekend with my red beans. **sigh** Patience is a virtue.)

For a delicious southern-style recipe, try my recipe for Fried Okra. Puts a smile on my boy’s face every time. 🙂