How to Grow Okra
Okra is tasty, easy to grow, and loves heat like our sweltering Oklahoma summers. If you want to grow okra, check this out.
As long as you have a long enough, hot enough summer, you can grow all the okra you can eat.
How to Grow Okra
If you live in Oklahoma, it’s pretty much required that you like okra. Here at Little Sprouts, we LOVE it. It’s not fussy, doesn’t require a lot of water, is relatively unbothered by pests, and LOVES our hot summers. It doesn’t even mind not having great soil. Anyone can grow okra in their home garden.
Okra has a ton of great health benefits. Click here to see more.
Where to buy okra seeds
If you’d like to buy Star of David okra seeds the kids harvested from their garden, click here to get them on etsy.
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Okra varieties that we like
My Little Sprouts LOVE giant plants and miniature plants, so we plant varieties of things that are not typical sizes. This year we planted Clemson spineless because okra spines are POKEY and they kind of hurt. We also planted Star of David because it’s HUGE!
Last year we cut down a giant stalk at the end of the season and it was 12 feet tall. We have to bend the plants over to pick them. Our tallest one this year is only up to about 11 feet. It takes about 3 kids to be as tall as okra.
The leaves of okra plants are so pretty and interesting. They are big too so that makes them fun and interesting. They would be cool to use for pressing in concrete to make a leaf print.
Growing okra plants
Okra is very low maintenance and easy to grow. Last year, we had a plague of grasshoppers in Oklahoma. From what I can tell, we are gearing up for a repeat performance. The grasshoppers ate every single leaf on my okra to a nub last year and the okra kept right on producing like it didn’t even notice.
I have not seen anything else eat my okra plants. I do see a lot of ants on the okra, but they don’t eat it, they just crawl around. They seem particularly interested in the flowers for some reason. I would assume it’s because there may be aphids on the flowers. Ants love to eat aphid poo, so an infestation will draw ants. Ants do some pollinating in the garden, so I just leave them alone.
Our basic methods here at Little Sprouts include not much pest management. We pretty much let nature take its course. Sprays, chemicals, or homemade recipes are not often used in our preschool garden. We just live and let live.
On occasion, we will pick bugs by hand because it’s fun, but these occasions are rare. We save that for squash bugs. You’ll notice if you leave nature to it’s own, it will start to take care of itself. If you don’t spray, you’re not killing the good bugs that could eat the bag ones.
Okra needs to be planted after all danger of frost has passed. If you get it in early, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Okra loves the heat. When everything else in your garden burns up from the heat, your okra will come alive. In Oklahoma, we plant it after April 15. I heard a grandpa say, first pay your taxes, then plant your garden. This is true for most summer crops and definitely for okra.
During the cooler temperatures of the summer and fall, you will not see a lot of performance out of your okra, but when the days are long and extra hot, it will outperform everything else. The plant is tall and distinguished and the flowers are gorgeous!
Okra plant spacing
Plant okra seeds about one knuckle deep. Poke the seeds into the prepared soil until your first knuckle is just above the soil line. You just need one okra seed per hole. Fill the hole in with dirt gently and press it down about as hard as you would rub your eye. Water it well. In a week or two, you’ll see okra sprouts come up.
Plant okra seeds about 8-12 inches apart. They grow big so you’ll see why. Once the okra sprouts, it will grow slowly until the heat of summer rolls in. Then it will start growing very rapidly.
How does okra grow?
Okra grows edible pods. You eat them with the seeds intact. When you cut it, it becomes slimy. It’s what makes Gumbo slimy. That’s why it’s usually fried. Most people find slime off-putting.
When the okra is fried, it’s crispy and tender. There is nothing else like it. I do wonder why someone originally thought, look at that weird pod, let’s eat it. Ha! Interestingly enough, okra is delicious raw as well.
Harvesting okra soon enough is really important. Don’t let the pods get really long. For the small types, over 4 inches and it’s too tough to cut or eat. It becomes woody. For the fatter okra pods, they can go a little longer, but not much.
Some people cut the okra off the stalks and that can help prevent damage to the stalk. We crack ours straight down and then twist it off.
Types of okra
Like I said above, there are thin okras such as Clemson spineless. It’s a good variety because okra has little hairs or spines that make you itch. The Clemson spineless has far fewer of them and none on the pods themselves.
Star of David okra is really fat. I like it because it’s easier to prepare it. I think it tastes great too. The stalks grow really big. (We seem to have that no matter what type we choose)
Okra also has red varieties. We grew some gorgeous red okra in our front flower bed one year and it was beautiful. It was also delish!
How to cook okra
There are several ways to prepare okra and all of them are delicious. You can boil it with some seasoning until it’s tender. This is the slimiest way to eat it. The slime puts many people off.
You can eat okra raw and it’s delicious. It is not slimy if you leave the pods whole until you are ready to eat. It tastes fresh and crisp.
You can roast okra with olive oil, salt and pepper. I usually cut it in half lengthwise when I roast it. I heat the oven to 375 and roast until browned. The browner you roast it, the less slime it has left.
You can pickle okra just like you would cucumbers. This is one of my favorite preparations. Put the whole pods in a jar tightly packed and add boiling brine. Then place the lid on the jar, when it cools store it in the refrigerator. It’s really yummy like this.
Most of the okra we harvest is eaten fried. That is definitely the yummiest way to enjoy it. To fry it, slice it, then dust it with flour, salt, and pepper. Preheat about 1/4 inch of coconut oil in a pan.
When okra placed in the oil begins to bubble, your oil is hot enough. Place a few pieces at a time in your pan and cook until golden on the bottom, turn the okra over and brown the other side. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle on a little salt. It’s spectacular.
How to freeze okra
I also dust it with flour, salt, and pepper, and then toss it in a quart size freezer bag and freeze it. I can fry it up later, just like I did above and we have okra to enjoy in the winter time.
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