Ashleigh Smith + photo

Ashleigh Smith

Jan 10
3 min read
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Okra - A Summer Vegetable

If you are from the Southern United States you are likely familiar with okra, a vegetable that thrives in the heat. It is grown across the globe in areas like India, West Africa, Ethiopia, and the United States.

Okra has become an important crop for areas with poor growing conditions as it thrives in hot weather while being drought tolerant. If you enjoy this vegetable you will want to collect new seed each year as it does not store well from season to season.

Okra is often fried, pickled, or incorporated into southern dishes like gumbo and stew as its properties cause it to thicken these types of foods. It is also seen frequently in Oriental cuisine either pickled or stir-fried.

For interest in varieties specifically used in Asian cooking check out varieties from the Kitazawa brand (an Asian specialty brand True Leaf Market has recently taken stewardship of).

Okra develops pods containing seeds and hibiscus-like flowers. When the pods are cooked they develop a mucilaginous slime. This texture is off-putting to some people, however the flavor is loved by many.

While the okra fruit is well known around the world, many people don’t know most of the plant is actually edible. With your next harvest try cooking with the leaves and blossoms in addition to the fruit.

If you would like to grow some Okra yourself, start by selecting some seeds. Here at True Leaf Market we have several varieties with a range of organic, heirloom, and hybrid options. In addition to these we also carry some Asian varieties through Kitazawa Seed Co.

How To Grow Okra:

  • Grow in spot with well draining soil, full sun
  • Plant 2-3 weeks after the chance of frost has passed
  • Start indoors 4-6 wks before last frost or direct sow when temperatures are consistently above 60° F
  • Harvest about 2 months from planting
  • Remove pods while they are still tender enough to cut (2-3 inches long).

How To Prepare Okra

Okra is really easy to incorporate into your cooking. If you are making a dish such as gumbo, just cut into even pieces. For frying you can either use whole, or slice into your preferred size. To prevent it from becoming gelatinous, cook whole. The most common methods are either frying, or simply mixing into your gumbo for the last 10 minutes or so allowing it to thicken.

Ashleigh Smith's photo

I'm Ashleigh Smith, a native to Northern Utah. I first gained a love of gardening with my grandmother as I helped her each summer. I decided to make a career of it and have recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. My studies have focused on plant production while I also have experience in Nursery & Garden Center Operations.


Ashleigh Smith

Hi Kimberly, thank you for your suggestion. We have added a small section to this article about how you can use okra in your cooking. Gumbo is one of the most preferred methods to use okra in southern cooking. We would recommend starting there if you have never used it before. We would love to hear how your dish turns out! Share your creations with #Trueleafmarket on social media.

Kimberly ferrier

Adding some ways to cook and serve Okra would have been helpful. I bought some frozen and now I don’t know what to do with it. Help!