Now that the weather was finally gotten warmer, it's time to grow heat-loving vegetables. This vegetable hails from Africa, was grow by ancient Egyptians, and was brought to this country by slaves. It's related to hibiscus, cotton, and mallow plants. Can you guess the name? It's okra.
Okra is loved by some gardeners for its tall, attractive plants and pods that are used in gumbo -- fried or roasted. Others hate the slimy consistency of the pods and avoid it at all costs. I'm in the former group.
For me, enjoying okra is all about picking the pods when young and cooking them properly. When I fried up a batch for my okra-shy wife Wendy, she actually liked it!
Okra needs sun, heat, and water. If the tall traditional varieties such as Louisiana Green Velvet and Cowhorn are too big for your gardening tastes, try some dwarf varieties. Burgundy has red colored stems, leaves and pods and only grows 4 feet tall. Baby Bubba and Cajun Delight grow even shorter and are good, quick maturing varieties for northern climates.
Plant okra in compost amended soil, on raised beds. Okra has few pests and problems. Because of its heritage, the hibiscus-like flowers are attractive so grow okra as an edible landscape plant as well. Harvest the young pods when they're 3 to 4 inches long and keep up with it. Any pods that get away from you and get too long should also be harvested. This keeps the production coming. The woody pods can to be used for making rope, but I just compost them.