(Hibiscus esculentus )
Other Names: Bhindi, Gumbo, Quingombó, Quiab
Okra is an annual or perennial herbaceous plant, growing to 2 m tall, straight up with very little phototropism. The leaves are 10-20 cm long and broad, palmately lobed with 5-7 lobes. The flowers are 4-8 cm diameter, with five white to yellow petals, often with a red or purple spot at the base of each petal. The fruit is a capsule, 5-20 cm long, containing numerous seeds.
The okra vegetable is a tasty green vegetable used in Indian, African and Caribbean cooking. It can be used in curries and casseroles or stuffed and steamed cooked like dim sum. When the pods are cut, they exude a mucilaginous (thick and sticky) juice that is an excellent thickener for stews and soups, especially Créole Gumbo. The flavour blends well with acid foods such as tomatoes.
Okra is a good source of vitamin C and A, also B complex vitamins, iron and calcium. It is low in calories, a good source of dietary fibre and is fat-free.
Okra requires warmth and full sun. It is drought and heat tolerant, it will grow happily in temperatures as high as 40°C.
Okra does best in fertile loamy soil with soil temperature of 20°C-30°C. Okra grows best in neutral to slightly alkaline soils, pH 6.5-7.5.
Easily grows from seed. The seeds are normally soaked overnight before planting and then planted 1-2 cm deep when the ground is warm. It needs relativily high temperatures (25°C-30°C) for germination. In non-tropical climates, warm the site with black plastic for about 3-4 weeks before planting. Under these conditions the seeds will germinate within 5 to 10 days and the vegetable ready for picking in 3 months.