Okra seems to be one of those things that you love or hate, and to my surprise, there are many haters out there – “It’s too sliiimmmyyy” is the usual complaint. Well, I say – “You have to know how to cook it” – ’cause I don’t like slime either, but I do like okra!
I was quite fortunate as a kid to have my grandfather living behind us on his own large piece of property here in South Florida. Papa was a sharecropper for much of his life (in Georgia), and so having a garden was something he just did, naturally, every season, into his 90’s. He loved growing okra, which he called “okry,” and always had quite a substantial crop. My Mom would make an okra stew – which I don’t think I ever ate as a child, but it is one of my favorite ways to eat it now. (See recipe links below). I brought it to a family potluck dinner where my siblings (as adults) told me they were all dreading an okra dish and guess what? They loved it!
We tried growing a few fancy types one season (such as “star of David” which is very cool looking), but honestly, we just seemed to have settled into a few basic types – the Clemson spineless, and a basic red okra, and this year we’re trying one called “Chant” & will report how it turns out (Update: it’s great, good producer and fine okra). The fruit of the plant grows quickly, so it must be picked daily or you will get overgrown, tough pieces. The most serious farmers will even pick twice daily to get the perfect size!
Okra absolutely loves South Florida in the summer! And it has very few issues. This year we are getting some snail action on the plants, but they seem to have abated after applying Sluggo Snail Bait. We typically plant rows by direct seed in late April and into June, and can harvest up through October as they just love the heat. I hope if you’ve been an okra skeptic all your life, you’ll give it a try – non-slimy recipes to follow!
Written by DK; Photo by Tracy Elliott