Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hibiscus You Can Eat

The edible member of the Malva family is 0kra (Hibiscus esculentus or Abelmoschus esculuentus ). Gumbo is a term applied to soups or other dishes which contain okra.

Okra requires a hot growing season, about two months from planting to beginning harvest. Harvest will continue as long as nights stay warm. Okra planted in cool soil germinates poorly or not at all. Seeds may be soaked for a few hours in warm to hot water to speed germination. I planted 5 year old seeds this year. Germination was spotty but I have plenty of plants for two people.
This is my okra. The other pics are from my neighbor's garden.
He planted earlier and is already cutting pods.

For best quality, harvest okra that is 3 to 4 inches long. Harvest the pods while they are young and tender and while they are easy to break or cut from stalk. For continued harvest, pick
okra every day or two. Refrigerate harvested okra immediately.

To fry okra, slice the pods, roll the pieces in cornmeal, and fry them. I start mine in an iron skillet on top of the stove in just enough oil to start the frying. Once the okra is saturated in oil, I put the skillet in a 350 degree oven to finish frying. Oven fried okra cooks evenly and does not need stirring past the initial stir atop the stove. Restaurants batter and deep fry their okra.

Boiled okra is an acquired taste. Young pods of less than 3 inches long gently boiled and buttered are delicious. My MIL always put a few small pods atop lima beans or white field peas during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Okra is a definite improvement to vegetable soup. Sliced crosswise in small slices, it will almost disappear during cooking but imparts the delicious flavor and thickens the soup.

You can read even more about okra Here at TAMU.

Some of us do not thin to 12" apart as the experts advise.

A pod and a bud.
When the bloom falls off, the okra pod forms.
Four days from bloom to edible sized pod.


  1. As a transplanted Northerner, I find okra an acquired taste. But I really really want to like it. It's readily available at the farmer's market, and I'm all about eating what's local and in season. Thanks for the tips on cooking it. Does it freeze well for use in winter soups? I'm not inclined to make soups when the temps are in the high 90s!

  2. It does freeze well, Sheila. I forgot to mention pickled okra, too. You can buy that.

    One of my favorite cooks used to fry the first few pods, too few to fry alone with green tomatoes. Better than either alone, I thought.

  3. Well, like I said before, Okra~~~ not so much, though I do like its flower.

  4. What an intriguing idea to grow okra. I've always loved gumbo soups, so might try. Thanks for the idea.

  5. Honestly, I hate okra! I grow ornamental okra, the flowers are very similar.

  6. So, to do the green tomatoes, just toss them in the corn meal and add to the skillet with the okra?

    To freeze:
    I prepare mine like I was going to fry them, rolling slices in the corn meal then lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze. After freezing pour them all into a large freezer bag. This makes is very easy to pour out what I want to cook.

    I am watering the west end of the garden (with the okra) hoping to speed up germination.

  7. I like this post for several reasons: 1) As a former New Orleanian, I am a gumbo lover; 2) I never really knew what okra plants looked like; 3) I had no idea these plants are part of the hibiscus family. Very informative post!

  8. I love okra fried, boiled or pickled. But I soon get tired of the taste. A gumbo sounds delicious!

  9. I love fried okra! Not batter-dipped, but tossed in cornmeal and fried in an iron skillet. Doesn't get any better than that!

    Grew up on okra and I avoid it now only because I want it fried. I can't stop at a reasonable portion size! Like eating popcorn!

  10. gotta grow me some okra next year....

  11. Looks like you will be making a lot of gumbo with all your plants. I do like gumbo too. Okra plants are kinda pretty, the flowers especially.

  12. I remember seeing okra fields in southern illinois but I am not sure I can grow it in northern illinois were I am now- I just planted some hibiscus plants so I had no idea they were related- interesting.

  13. Because okra has to be picked often, the home grower may not have enough on any given day to prepare for a dish. Simply cut the okra leaving the cap on the veg, wash and toss in a large bag in the freezer. By NOT cutting it up, you minimize the goo – cut the caps off when you prepare your recipe. Now try this recipe, it is DELISH. Bamya. The recipe has all the requirements to cut the goo, leaving you with a tasty peppery okra dish: Acid (lemon juice, tomatoes), rinsing/marinating with vinegar, minimize cutting, roasting.

  14. Well I certainly did not know that Okra was a hibiscus. I have had gumbo, love it. I was thinking of copying you with a video tour of our garden, probably in July. I don't think I will do a talk over, ok I enjoyed your American accent, but honestly with my Scottish tongue you probably would think I was talking in gaelic.

  15. NellJean! Love the pics of your okra. I love okra plants, although I never cared to eat any. My grandmother was a FIEND for the stuff, though. I kept expecting her to come up with an okra pie. LOL

  16. Hahaha, i was expecting that you are talking about a real hibiscus flower, because they can really be eaten. A vegetarian friend always include hibiscus leaf in her salad and it always finish fast maybe because most are curious how it tastes. But I love okra too!


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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