Okra is hardy, fast-growing, productive, easy to grow from seed, and it loves the heat. It’s the perfect plant for a Texas summer garden.
Okra generally does better when it’s direct sowed. It’s a hot weather crop, so make sure evening temps are around 60 degrees. Plant seeds 1-2 feet apart. Okra tolerates intermittent watering and dry, clay soil, though enriching the soil with compost and nitrogen-rich fertilizer will help the plant produce better. Top dressing midway through the season with more compost and mulch will help with pod production as well.
Okra in the Garden Ecosystem
Okra grows 5-6 feet tall, but doesn’t take up too much space in the garden bed overall. It loves full sun and can be strategically grown to shade other plants from the hot afternoon sun, or it can be grown as a backdrop behind shorter sun-loving plants. The flowers are gorgeous and make a beautiful addition to an ornamental garden as well.
With okra, bigger is not better. You want to harvest okra pods when they’re small or they’ll be woody and inedible. The pods grow fast and go from 0 to 100 quickly, so check on them every day during prime harvesting time to make sure you get them when they’re small enough. If they get too big, just let the pods dry on the stalk and save them for seeds.
Cooking with Okra
A lot of our okra never makes it out of the garden because we love snapping off the pods and munching them fresh. It’s the perfect summertime snack when it’s hot outside and our bodies need the extra moisture. Okra is also great battered and fried, cooked into gumbos, curries and stews, pickled, or sliced lengthwise and roasted. Being in the mallow family, the leaves and flowers are also edible. Some people report roasting the seeds and brewing them as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. We haven’t tried this yet, but will report back.
The flowers, while short lasting once picked, make beautiful bouquets so long as you harvest them to enjoy right away.