How to grow the okra (or okra) plant

There okra plant (or okra or ocher) is easy to cultivate and it can be very satisfying in a home garden.
Its scientific name Abelmoschus esculentus, and is a plant belonging to the botanical family of Malvaceae. Other plants such as the mauve and thehibiscus.
It is widely used in gourmet recipes.
Its appearance is particular but it is rich in nutritional elements.

In this article we will see everything you need for cultivate the okra plant. We will also discover its properties and uses.

Origin of the okra plant

The okra plant is one exotic plant, originally from East Africa. It comes in particular from countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Egypt. In Anglo-Saxon countries it is known as lady finger.
Over the centuries it has also spread to other continents, where it is highly appreciated in traditional cuisine, such as Indian and Lebanese cuisine.
In Italy, okra is grown mainly in Sicily and other southern regions.
However, being a very rustic plant, its cultivation can be extended to the whole country.

The okra plant

  • Okra is a herbaceous plant, grown according to an annual cycle.
  • It can reach considerable heights, up to 2 m.
  • It develops a robust central stem, from which numerous branches branch off.
  • It has a solid and powerful structure, which allows the plant to stand up straight without the need for supports and ties.


The leaves are large and three-lobed, arranged alternately on the stem and equipped with a long petiole. They are dark green in color and covered with a light stinging hair. In appearance, they are similar to those of the vine plant.

The flowers

Okra flowers are very beautiful. They have the typical appearance of the flowers of the family of Malvaceae. The petals vary from white to yellow and have an evident amaranth colored pistil in the center.
Pollination is entomophilic, operated by bees and other pollinating insects.
Flowering occurs in summer and has great ornamental value.

The pod

From the flowers, the pod is formed after a few days, which is the edible part of the okra.
How I look reminds a croissant pepper. The pod is green in color, reddish in some varieties and has a typical pentagonal section.
It must be harvested within a few days of its formation, otherwise it changes its flavor too much.
Inside the pod there are numerous seeds, of medium size, which can be kept for the reproduction of the plant.

Variety of ocher plants

The ocher plant includes numerous varieties, grown around the world. The seeds are easily found on the market. The most famous varieties are:

  • Star of David
  • Hill country
  • Heirloom Red
  • Burgundy
  • Clemson Spineless

How to grow okra

To be able to cultivate the okra plant you need a mild climate, as this guarantees healthy and luxuriant growth. For this reason it is grown on an annual cycle, from spring to summer. Okra can't stand too low temperatures, so it can't survive the winter. The best exposure is in full sun, but possibly sheltered from the winds.


Okra is suitable for cultivation in almost all types of terrain. Only those that are too clayey and compact, which give rise to the formation of water stagnation, should be avoided.


If the soil is fertile, the plant will give you great satisfaction in terms of production. Therefore, before planting the seedlings, a good basic organic fertilization of the soil is recommended, using mature manure, compost or earthworm humus.

Okra sowing

Okra reproduces from seed. It is difficult for nurseries to offer seedlings, as this vegetable is still not very widespread in our country.
Okra seeds germinate easily over a period of 7 to 15 days.
The temperatures for sowing must be between 21 and 32 ° C.
Considering that the plants can be planted in the open field between the end of April and May, sowing can begin in early April.
It is advisable to use a polystyrene seedbed or small jars with a diameter of 10 cm.


Once the seedlings are about 10-15 cm high, they can be transplanted into the vegetable garden.
Being very voluminous plants, it is advisable to maintain a distance of 80-100 cm between one plant and another on the row, and of 1.50 m between the rows, for planting.


Being a tall plant, okra can be easily interconnected with small plants. In fact, it is sufficient to arrange them between one plant and another.
As an example we mention: lettuce, chard, basil is parsley. All low and not very voluminous plants, which later take advantage of the shadow created by the ocher leaves.


Okra does not need special care, if the plant takes root well at the beginning it practically grows itself. Irrigation is therefore only necessary after long periods of drought, in the summer months.
Avoid over-wetting the soil, though. Better to give water little and often, in the coolest hours of the day.


Natural mulching around the plant stem helps keep the soil wetter and avoid weed removal work.
You can use the straw, but also the jute or the sheep's wool they are fine.


As for the pests of the okra plant, pay attention to the presence of bedbugs and of aphids.


Bedbugs attack okra plants in late summer, when there are ripening fruits. A great way to protect plants is to use insect nets, which among other things you can also use for fruit trees.


Aphids act mainly in spring, when the climate is humid. To eliminate them from okra plants you can use the soft potassium soap. It is a product allowed in organic farming which you can find it here.

Grow the potted okra plant

It is also possible to grow okra in pots, perhaps invegetable garden created on the balcony at home, on the terrace or in the garden. As mentioned, the plant has a great ornamental value.
The advice we give is to use a good universal potting soil for vegetable plants.
Perlite or pebbles must also be placed on the bottom of the vase, so as to ensure perfect drainage of excess water.
Use large containers, at least 50 cm deep.

Properties of okra pods

The great diffusion in the world of okra is due to its beneficial properties.
The pods are rich in vitamins (A, thiamine, B6, C), folic acid, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, potassium, dietary fiber.
They also contain a precious mucilage to soothe some intestinal problems.
It is a vegetable with very few calories, to be recommended for those who follow low-calorie diets. It is also beneficial in fighting some cancers.
Finally, okra is used in herbal medicine for the preparation of beauty products for the skin and hair.

Recipes with the okra plant

Okra is a vegetable with a very delicate, sweetish flavor. It is eaten after cooking, which is used to soften the peel. It is excellent fried, cooked in batter, au gratin, sautéed or stewed.
It is perfect for giving an extraordinary creaminess to soups, as it contains a gelatinous liquid that has the power to slightly thicken dishes.
The numerous seeds can also be used, from which, in countries where cultivation is intensive, an excellent table oil is obtained.
A more practical use is drying and subsequent grinding, to use the powder as an alternative to coffee.

It might also interest you

Organic cultivation

Organic Cultivation is a blog that was born from our desire to spread the good practices of organic farming. To do this we decided to give our knowledge to anyone who wants to get involved and create their own vegetable garden (even using a terrace or a simple balcony). Growing without the use of pesticides is possible and we want to prove it by presenting alternatives biological and effective for any type of problem linked to agriculture.

Okra or okra: what it is and how to use it

Okra or okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) or Lady's Finger, or "woman's fingers" (due to the shape of its fruits), is a tropical plant native to continent of Africa. It is well known in India where, however, it is not found in the wild in Europe, it has found diffusion only in Greece and lately in the Southern Italy where it is required by immigrant communities who use it extensively in the kitchen.

Both i fruits that the leaves. From the fiber you get from drums macerates can be made from paper or a textile fiber known as "okra fiber".

How okra or okra is made

Annual herbaceous plant, belonging to the Malvaceae family, it can reach heights up to 2-3 m. Has leaves bright dark green color and flowers large yellow in color and with great ornamental value, from June until the first cold.

THE fruits, that need heat to grow, they are the size of a little finger. Bright green in color, they are capsules that have a conical-pyramidal shape with longitudinal ribs. The harvest of the pods must be done when they are still tender and unripe, 5 to 8 days after flowering if caught late they become fibrous and inedible. We proceed by cutting them: the plant has, in fact, a superficial hair that can be irritating to the skin.

Easily perishable, they tolerate refrigerator storage poorly and go used within a few days of collection unless you freeze them.

Adult plants survive until the first frosts, when they blacken and die.

How it is grown

It starts its crop cycle in late spring and blooms fruiting in summer. It can also be grown in Italy in the northern regions as long as temperatures of 20-25 ° C they need to bear fruit. Requires full sun.

There sowing it is carried out after the frosts and the rigid temperatures of the winter period the seeds of this plant do not germinate well in cold soils. If desired, to facilitate the germination phase, the seeds can be soaked for one night before burying them. Prefer i land loose of medium texture but adapts to different types of soil.

Using the postarelle technique, place 4 or 5 seeds in each hole (about 3 cm). The distances to be observed are 40 cm between the rows and 70 between the rows. Once germinated, when they have reached 10 cm in height, the seedlings must be transplanted individually.

In vegetable gardens it can be useful tamp down this, being the plant rather resistant to diseases, prevents the use of synthetic products.

Has water needs modest and even, in the germination phase, an excessive water intake can compromise its survival.

To obtain seeds to repant, let some fruits grow large on the plant, then take the seeds and let them dry.

Nutritional properties of okra or okra

The low-calorie fruits are rich in vitamins A, B6, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, zinc and fiber. There fiber di okra has an active role in maintaining the health of the gastrointestinal tract, in fact, it facilitates the propagation of probiotics and absorbs water, cholesterol and metabolic toxins which, trapped in its mucilage, slide out through the faeces.

How it is used in the kitchen

If small, i fruits they can be eaten raw in salads. Alternatively they can be fried, stewed with tomatoes, in soups, or be pickled or in brine. In order not to lose the beneficial virtues and in particular the precious mucilage contained in it, okra must be cooked over low heat. But to avoid excesses of this substance, it is good to rinse the fruits cut into slices in warm water or blanch them for 2 minutes with half a lemon.

The leaves they can be used as herbal tea or vegetable soup, for risotto or for salads and cold dishes.

Come on seeds ripe, a table oil is obtained. Or, dried and ground, they are an alternative to coffee.

Okra in cosmetics

To reinvigorate the hair, boil 3 fruits of okra cut lengthwise in 4 liters of water until a very slimy substance has formed in the water, then add the filtered juice of a lemon and use it as the penultimate rinse.

Okra plant

How to Grow the Okra. Okra is a plant that lasts all summer. When you harvest one pod, another grows in its place. It belongs to the hibiscus family and. It should also be possible to grow okra in Italy, at least in the center-south. Next spring (March-April) I would suggest buying some.

Are you curious about how to cook okra? Discover the benefits of the tasty and versatile plant with African origins, and don't miss the recipes How to grow okra: from sowing to harvest. Instructions for growing okra (okra) in pots or in the vegetable garden. Where to buy the seeds or the plant Okra (or okra) is a pod The fruit you see in the picture belongs to the Okra plant which is part of the Malvaceae family (similar to hibiscus) Okra, or okra, is a plant of African origin whose pod, 8 centimeters long and green in color, it is edible and used in the kitchen Features Okra or Okra. Okra, scientific name Abelmoschus esculentus, is a herbaceous plant of the Malvaceae family, native to Africa.

How to grow Okra in the desert

Okra, related to hibiscus and hollyhock, is a podlike vegetable often fried, boiled, or used in soups or stews. Also known as gumbo, okra is a hot plant, making it suitable for desert climates. The secret of growing okra success in desert climates is maintaining excellent soil nourishment and adequate - but not too much - water. Because of its beautiful blooms, okra adds color and interest to the vegetable garden.Things you will need
Okra seeds
Swords or rudder
biological material
granular fertilizer
Garden like

Show More Instructions

plant the okra seeds in early March, or 3-4 weeks after the last winter frost. For subsequent crops until fall, plant okra until early July.

Select a sunny, well-drained spot in your garden.

Swords or up the ground to a depth of at least 8 to 10 inches. Deep cultivation allows plants to grow healthy, deep roots and take advantage of soil moisture.

Remove stones and large dirt clods.

Cover the planting area with 2 to 3 inches of organic material such as compost or decomposed animal waste. Organic matter is useful in any soil, but it is especially important in desert soil. Desert soil is often sandy, which holds no water well or clay-based, which can become compacted.

Fertilize the prepared area, using a dry fertilizer. For best results, select a general-purpose garden fertilizer, with a ratio such as 10-20-10. Use 2-3 kilos of fertilizer for every 100 square meters of planting area. Fertilizer is critical for healthy growth, as desert soil is often both salty, alkaline and nutrient-poor.

Dig the organic material and fertilizer into the soil and smooth the soil with a rake.
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create rows at least 3 feet apart with the tip of a garden hoe.

plant the okra seeds in rows, allowing 2 inches between each seed. Cover the seeds with 1 inch of soil.

water the sown area immediately and keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. After that time, water the plants deeply enough to saturate the roots every seven to 10 days. Sandy soils require more frequent irrigation than clay soils.

Thin okra, when the seedlings are about 2 cm tall. Leave 12 inches between each row.

Harvest okra when the pods are 3-4 inches long. Harvesting every other day, as okra allowed to grow too large becomes bitter and harsh. Regular harvesting also stimulates the plant to continue producing.

Growing Okra, or Okra, an unusual vegetable

There are many names by which this strange vegetable is known: their diversity derives from the different places of origin. In fact, the cultivation of this vegetable in Italy is still sporadic, mostly it is spread by immigrants who consumed it in their homeland, although industrial cultivation has also been attempted here.

Commonly known as Okra, many call it Okra or Okri, and others Hibiscus, still others Abelmosco. This is the Abelmoschus esculentus. It is grown from Lazio downwards, but it can also be grown in the vegetable gardens of the north, in the Po Valley and beyond.

For some years I have begun to offer okra seeds on my blogs, as a tribute to the buyers of my books, the interest in this vegetable about which very little is commonly known leads me to give some information on its cultivation, even if this is not the suitable period. In fact, okra is a plant for hot climates, which in Italy we can only sow in late spring, preferably in May.

Arrange in a small nursery with individual pots full of soil, in which you can place a seed. When the plants are at least ten centimeters high, you can place them in the field, at a distance of 40 cm from each other, in rows about 70 cm apart.
However, it must be taken into account that there are many varieties of okra, some up to one and a half meters high, others, like those reproduced in the last photo of this post, up to 5 meters high.

Okra is adaptable as a soil, but it must not be too humid: the plant must be well exposed to the sun because it comes from warm climates, even if it appears to be successfully cultivated in countries such as Albania and Japan.

Its needs in terms of irrigation and fertilization are quite simple, but should not be neglected. Water regularly and fertilize with little nitrogen so as not to have plants that give only leaves

Collection must be prompt. Okra emits very beautiful flowers, similar to those of hibiscus. In a very short time the flower turns into fruit and this in a couple of days reaches such dimensions that it is no longer edible. In fact, to be pleasant, okra must be harvested and consumed no longer than 7-8 cm: beyond this dimension it becomes gelatinous inside.

Okra is eaten like green beans, boiled and seasoned in different ways, or it can become part of vegetable soups. Collected and cleaned, it can be frozen raw and put to boil just before use while still frozen.

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There are many names by which this strange vegetable is known: their diversity derives from the different places of origin. In fact, the cultivation of this vegetable in Italy is still sporadic, mostly it is spread by immigrants who consumed it in their homeland, although industrial cultivation has also been attempted here.

Commonly known as Okra, many call it Okra or even Okri, and others Hibiscus, still others Abelmosco. This is the Abelmoschus esculentus. It is grown from Lazio downwards.

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Suitable climate and terrain

Please take into consideration that ocher, as a tropical plant, it fears frosts and too cold temperatures. For this reason, consider growing it only if you live in the southern area of ​​Italy, in particular Calabria and Sicily. In these regions with a mild and often sultry climate, okra will find fertile ground. In fact, to reach the production of fruits, they are necessary temperatures between 22 and 25 ° C. Prefer a spot exposed to the sun, but sheltered from the winds, so as to bring the fruits to full ripeness.

As for the ground, L'okra it is an undemanding vegetable and adapts to almost all types of soil, but tries to avoid too compact and clayey soils, which generate odious water stagnation.

The cultivation of red okra

Start planting within 4-6 weeks before the last frost in your area or directly outside the 2-4 weeks after the last expected frost. Gumbo seeds can be difficult to germinate. To make the process easier, gently break off the outer layer with a nail clipper or let it soak overnight. Germination should take place within 2-12 days.

Space the seeds 2 cm in rich soil, and about ½ cm deep. Be sure to landscaping with lots of fertilizer as okra is a heavy food.

Transplant the seedlings when any chance of frost is gone and the soil is warm and the ambient temperature is at least 68 degrees F. (20 C.). Plant new plants 6-8 cm away from each other. The pods should form in 55-60 days.

Okra on the table: 2 recipes from around the world

Two simple but very tasty recipes, to instantly fall in love with okra. Both okra recipes are preparations traditional, a typical of the regions of Central and South America, like many recipes with exotic fruit, the other typical of traditional Turkish cuisine and Arabic cuisine and very popular during Ramadan. Here are two ways to enjoy this undiscovered vegetable.

Crispy fried okra

The most popular recipe for okra or okra in the world is certainly the one that requires this rich and fibrous vegetable to become crunchy and tasty thanks to frying. In fact, fried okra is popular with adults and children and is offered on many different occasions: from the aperitif, why not vegan, at Sunday lunch up to the ethnic side dish. Let's see together how fried okra is cooked and what precautions to put into practice for the success of this recipe.

  • 2 cups of fresh okra
  • q.s. of integral sea salt
  • q.s. of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour
  • q.s. of rice oil for deep frying

  1. Wash is dry the okra very well.
  2. Cut it out in chunks.
  3. In a bowl, place the corn flour, chickpea flour, freshly ground black pepper and turn everything with your hands.
  4. Now add the pieces of okra to the mixture and mix well.
  5. Place a high-sided pan on the stove with plenty of rice oil.
  6. When theoil is hot, deep-fry the okra until it is golden
  7. Proceed to small amounts until the okra is completed.
  8. Rest on the blotting paper and enjoy your hot okra fry.
  9. If you wish, add salt to the okra when cooked and season with fresh lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Turkish okra

A dish to enjoy okra in sauce typically Mediterranean: flavors close to us, perfectly blended with the particular flavor of okra. Enjoy this dish together with del chapati or homemade yeast-free bread and savor the flavor of okra in Turkish sauce.

  • 2 cups of fresh okra
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 chopped sweet green peppers
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of harissa (or chilli)
  • q.s. of integral sea salt
  • q.s. of fresh mint

  1. Wash and dry the okra very well.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the oil, then fry onion and garlic, fading with a little water so that the garlic does not blacken.
  3. Once they are cooked, add the okra and mix everything.
  4. Add the chopped sweet chillies, cooking them together for a few minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and let everything cook without lid for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add the agave and harissa, mix and cook for 20-25 minutes.
  7. Remove from the fire, let it go cool and serve, if necessary, adding salt when cooked and adding a chopped fresh mint.

As always then we have tried out all the taste of a food that is not part of our tradition thanks to two simple and very tasty recipes. Whether you want to call it okra or okra, try your hand at its preparation by making the changes that your imagination suggests and combine what you want most with this vegetable to be discovered: pilaf rice, bulgur or wholemeal cous cous or even with fresh sea lettuce and lots of lemon juice.

Video: How to Grow Okra In Pots. Growing Okra at home very easy

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