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Abelmoschus esculentus (syn. Hibiscus esculentus)

In Our Garden

The edible portion of okra is the immature seedpod which resembles a five pointed star when cut into cross-sections.

red velvet okra
Abelmoschus esculentus
3-5 ft plant height, 3-5 in pod
Tender Annual

Beautiful scarlet-red pods, leaves, and stems. Pods are slightly curved with gentle ridges. Vigorous plants produce 3-5 in. tender pods.

In History

A close relative of the ornamental hibiscus, okra originated in either southwest Asia or eastern Africa, and made its way to the southern United States through the slave trade.


Growing Tips:
Okra flourishes when it is grown with melons and cucumbers since they all enjoy the same conditions.

Okra needs a well-drained soil, and should be staked and tied as it grows. Pinch out the growing tip on the main stems when the plants are around 9-12 inches tall to encourage bushy growth.

Why It's Good for You

The mucilage from okra is effectively used as a demulcent, soothing inflammation.

This vegetable, a cousin of the cotton plant, is rich in cholesterol-lowering fiber that is also known to help regulate blood sugar levels, key for people suffering from Type 2 diabetes.

Let's Eat

How to Prepare:
The slimy texture of okra is a result of its mucilage, which is a mixture of carbohydrate molecules and proteins that help plaints retain water. The slimy nature of the mucilage is utilized as a thickener in soups and stews such as gumbo, or can be minimized if fried or baked.


Pest Management

  • Aphids
    Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with long, slender mouth parts that they use to pierce stems, leaves, and other tender plant parts and suck out plant fluids. Almost every plant has one or more aphid species that occasionally feeds on it. Many aphid species are difficult to distinguish; however, identification to species is not necessary to control them in most situations.
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  • Armyworms
    Armyworm larvae feed in groups, which distinguishes them from other vegetable pests such as corn earworms and loopers. Markings on newly hatched armyworms are usually hard to distinguish from those of other caterpillars; older larvae have distinct lengthwise stripes. The surface of the armyworm skin is smooth.
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  • Corn earworms (Tomato fruitworm)
    The color of this species varies and is not reliable for identification. Older larvae have distinct stripes along sides and many short, whiskerlike spines over the body surface.
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  • Loopers
    Loopers are green with several white stripes down their backs. They arch their backs as they crawl, this looping movement giving them their name. The most common looper is the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni.
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  • Spider mites
    Mites are common pests in landscapes and gardens and can be found feeding on many fruit trees, vines, berries, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Although related to insects, mites are not insects but members of the arachnid class along with spiders and ticks. The spider mites, also called webspinning mites, are the most common mite pests and among the most ubiquitous of all pests in the garden and farm.
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  • Thirps
    Thrips, order Thysanoptera, are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings. They feed by puncturing their host and sucking out the cell contents. Certain thrips species are beneficial predators that feed only on mites and other insects. Beneficial species include black hunter thrips and the sixspotted thrips. Pest species (often in the family Thripidae) are plant feeders that scar leaf, flower, or fruit surfaces or distort plant parts. Other species of thrips feed on fungal spores and pollen and are innocuous.
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  • Whiteflies
    Whiteflies are tiny, sap-sucking insects that are frequently abundant in vegetable and ornamental plantings. They excrete sticky honeydew and cause yellowing or death of leaves. Outbreaks often occur when the natural biological control is disrupted. Management is difficult.
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