I never knew okra grew in the tropics until I noticed it was always available at the market up here. I suppose I’d never really thought about it. I had bought it and cooked it in curries a couple of times previously, but it wasn’t part of our regular diet.
Fast-forward to this wet season and we’re eating okra every week. Our okra bush(?) is huge, taller than me, and has been flowering and fruiting for a couple of months now. Only one of the seeds we planted germinated, which is probably a good thing given its size. I have seen some sources suggest soaking the seeds overnight before planting, which we didn’t do, so I’m not sure if we should have tried that. The eggplant and chilli seeds we planted alongside it also didn’t grow, although it’s possible they all got dug up by either the dog or the bush chooks (Orange-footed scrubfowl). We didn’t put much effort into creating or maintaining the beds, so we’re happy that this okra plant has been doing so well. An array of grasshoppers, caterpillars and other insects have been devouring the plant’s leaves since it was small, but it’s still going strong and they don’t seem to be affecting the fruit so we haven’t done anything to remove them (if I was to try anything, I would start with a homemade chilli and garlic spray).
If you do decide to grow some okra yourself, start checking for pods even before you see the first flowers. For us, this was about 2-3 months after planting. The pods get big very quickly, we missed most of the first ones as I didn’t check until after it had flowered and by then it was too late. Once it starts fruiting, check the plant every 2-3 days and pick any pods that are ready, we then store them in the crisper in the fridge.
The larger pods are too stringy to eat, it’s best to pick them when they’re around the size of your thumb. We left the larger pods on the plant and they’ve now dried out enough to collect their seeds (we’ll plant some more now, save some and give some away).
This one plant has been producing enough okra to use for a meal every week. While I do still cook it in curries on occasion, more often than not I will just toss it in olive oil and salt and pepper (or other spices) then throw it onto the barbecue or into a roasting dish. It’s a great, quick, ‘green vegetable’ to round out a meal without creating extra dishes. We even served it with our Christmas turkey.
Do you have a favourite way to cook okra, or any okra growing tips?