Monday, May 26, 2008

Planting Okra

One of our favorite vegetables is fresh okra and we have a good climate for it here in the District of Columbia. We had a fine crop of Clemson Spineless two years ago and I saved a few seed pods. They've been kicking around the house ever since. At some point it occurred to me to place them with our other seeds in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

In other words, I have no idea whether these seeds are still viable. I split the pods open with a paring knife and out they spilled. They had a nice, cushy home inside the pods, now they're moving to a long piece of territory behind the rhubarb plants, freshly turned and amended with compost.

Okra is a tough plant, with origins in Africa. Now we'll see if it can survive my pathetic seed saving techniques.


Meg Wolff said...

If this is the same plant I'm thinking of ... it looks like a candle flame shape and is green and whiteish green? I love getting these during the summer and muching on them as snack food. I hope your seeds grow!

Gilahi said...

Just don't give up on them if they don't come up immediately. It takes okra a very long time to germinate. My southern mother said that okra "had to go to the devil and back" before it start to grow. I've heard it said that you can speed along the process by soaking the seeds in water overnight before you plant them.

De in D.C. said...

Okra is my favorite vegetable, and I can never get enough of it during the summer. I decided to try growing my own this year, with the promise to myself that I wouldn't keep my hopes up since I constantly fight against the shady yard conditions. I started seeds indoors when I planted tomatoes back in March, and transplanted my 4 healthy looking okra plants into the garden in early May. You know, back when we had that one warm week and thought spring was here?

All 4 plants lost their leaves after about 2 weeks, so now I just have the stems poking out of the dirt. There's no way those guys are coming back, so I direct-sowed a few more seeds last week. It'll be interesting to compare my progress to yours, so please keep updating on your okra status!

Ed Bruske said...

Meg, okra is a noble plant with a glorious history. Many people don't like it because it can have a mucilagenous texture. It's in the mallow family, related to cotton. It produces a lovely flower.

Gilahi, I never noticed okra to be a slow germinator on the scale of, say, carrots. But I love your mother's saying. Now I'll be keeping a record of how long it takes for them to sprout--if they sprout.

De, it never occurred to me to start okra plants indoors until I saw someone else doing it recently. But they start everything indoors. I've always planted them directly in the garden and never had a problem. They grow like weeds. My problem has always been keep up with the pod production--the pods get very tough and inedible if they're allowed to grow too large.

Gilahi said...

Perhaps the slow germinator was a different variety. This is really taking me back. When I was much (much) younger, I was the only one in the family who didn't experience skin irritation when brushing up against okra plants, and was therefore the designated okra-cutter in our family from an early age. I still remember my parents standing at the ends of the rows and telling me which pods were ready to cut. Probably my first experiences with a real knife, too. Thanks for the memories!

rayindallas said...

I have a feeling your seeds are fine. When I was a kid, I sort of recall our okra seeds just going into the kitchen "junk drawer" in a paper envelope until next season.

Julia said...

Mmmm. I love okra. In fact, I love it so much, I happily pick rows and rows of it at Even' Star Farm (maybe the original source of your seeds??), despite the prickly, fuzzy leaves. I tried growing some in my yard in Cambridge, MA but I was lucky if I got 3 pods a week.

Ed Bruske said...

Gilahi, they make varieties of okra now that don't have the prickly hairs. Those are great memories you have, definitely from a different part of the country.

Rayindallas, thanks for the moral support. I can so easily picture the okra pods finding a place in the kitchen junk drawer. After a while, they're tough as nails--a real survivor, that plant.

Julia, it's great to meet another fan of Brett and Even' Star Farm. I'd love to hear more about your exploits there. My favorite image is of Brett, dressed in his Carhartt and cosmonaut cap, picking kale in January. He seems to keep more friends busy on his farm than anyone really knows.