Okra, aka lady's fingers, or gumbo, is a favourite in the Southern States of America; fried, boiled or in soups. And it is easy to grow if you have the right weather. Okra loves hot weather and will not tolerate frost. Long hot summers are best for a successful okra crop. Its origins are in North Africa, but it emigrated to the Americas following Mankinds journies of exploration.
In Great Britain it is best to start the seeds indoors and plant out as the season warms up. Okra does not do well if its roots are disturbed so use peat pots that may be planted without removing the plant from its container. Start seeds early May, so that the soil will be warmed up by the time the seedlings are ready for planting outside.
When planting out choose a bed that gets full sun all day. Okra can grow up to 2m (6 feet) tall, depending on the varity and growing conditions, so do not locate where it may shade other plants in your garden. Provide at least 2.5cm (1in) of water each week and fertilize when plants are 15cm (6in) tall.
Okra is a very attractive plant with lovely flowers but they only last for one day. However, they are deserving of consideration for the flower borders as well as the vegetable patch.
Soil should be fertile and high in potash with a pH of 6.0-6.8. Plant the seedlings 30cm (12 in) apart in rows 60cm (2 ft) apart.
Pick okra when the pods are 8-10cm (3-4 in) long for the best flavour and tenderness. If allowed to grow beyond that point it will become tough. Keep the okra picked to encourage continual production. You may need to harvest the okra every three or four days in mid-summer.
The recipes for Okra are legion, and it makes a good contribution to the allotments usefullness.