Unusual Vegetable Plants
Okra goes under several names including Lady’s Fingers, (due to its long, thin, delicate, pods) Gumbo, (from its uses in Southern America states of the U.S.A.) and the proper Latin name of Hibiscus Esculentus.
As an Hibiscus it can be a perennial in the right conditions and has attractive yellow flowers with a red eye. Okra originated in Africa/Asia and was transported to America a couple of hundred years or more ago along with the slaves when they were traded as it was one of their favourite food plants.
Being a plant from warmer climates Okra needs a long hot summer to be grown successfully and is best grown indoors under glass in the U.K. Having said that is is eaten on 5 continents around the world and is a part of the staple diet of the population in some and a rarity in others.
Plants grow up to 6 feet tall and both the flower buds and the starchy pods are eaten. Pods should be 2-4 inches long, free from blemishes, bright green and snap cleanly when they are ready to be picked.
Okra can be eaten as a vegetable by boiling for 8 minutes, draining dry and then frying until tender, but it is more commonly used as an additive, or flavouring, in soups, stews and curries. The famous Chicken Gumbo of Southern USA is a stew of Chicken, Ham, Tomatoes, Onions, Cayenne Pepper and Okra.