Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Okra, also called gumbo or lady fingers, is a plant grown for its fibrous pods full of round, white seeds, which, when picked young, are eaten as a vegetable. It was formerly considered a species of Hibiscus. The word okra is of African origin.
How to grow okra
Okra was brought to the United States via the African slave trade route, and flourished in the South. It can be grown throughout the South and into the Southwest and will tolerate poor soils (with heavy clay) and intermittent moisture; it only grows when there is available water, but can survive severe drought conditions in all but its seedling stage. Add the fact that few garden pests show any interest in the plant, and you have a great garden vegetable.
Okra seeds should be soaked overnight before planting. They should then be planted an inch deep in your poorest rock-free soil. Plant when the ground has thoroughly warmed up, after your tomatoes are flowering. Germination ranges from six days (soaked seeds) to three weeks (dry seeds watered in followed by cool spell). Water seedlings well and they will reward you in their maturity. Okra is among the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetables in the world.
The best okra, like almost all vegetables, is young and fresh right out of the garden. Okra gets very woody when it gets too mature, so it is best to pick often, even if you stick it in the refrigerator for a few days until you are ready to eat it. Okra is one of the most popular vegetables in late 20th century Japanese cuisine.
Okra may be steamed until tender, either whole or sliced about 1/2 half inch thick. Okra can also be boiled with tomatoes or fried in a cornmeal batter. Okra can also be the thickening agent in gumbo; when cooked, it has the same mucilaginous properties as nopales (the pads of the prickly pear). It can also be pickled.
Other food plants called okra
Some other food plants have been given common names alluding to their similarities to okra:
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