Monday, August 26, 2013

The Okra Patch

I have had several comments and questions on the okra patch. I have several rows of okra throughout both gardens. The reason for this is that I plant rows at different locations to confuse the deer : ) Yes the deer LOVE my okra too. 

In the picture above far right is corn, next cantaloupe vines , next okra and then tomatoes. See how tall they are with just leaves on the top. This is the way my mama and daddy grew okra as well as my grandparents. Okra is sticky, to keep from having to fight all those sticky leaves as you cut the pods off you cut the corresponding leaf off.   My tomato cages are 6 foot tall so are the okra plants. This particular type of okra we have had get as tall as 8 foot to 10 feet.  

Okra is a heat loving crop and it may bloom but for us it will not set fruit unless it is hot. I grow 2 types of okra Cajun Cowhorn and Clemson Spineless. Both are heirloom open pollinated varieties. I save seeds off both.

On these two varieties once the plants get about two and a half feet tall they will start to set yellow hibiscus looking flowers where the leaf meets the stalk. If the temperature is right that flower will set and develop fruit. On most varieties you want to cut okra young and small so that it is tender. The larger it gets the tougher it gets or woody. The exception is the variety that I grow which is Cajun Cowhorn. The pods on it stay tender when the pods are as long as 8 inches or more.  

If your blossom doesn't set fruit for whatever reason the plant will put out a leaf there. We cut them off.... both leaves! It will not bloom there again

On the above okra plant I have each blossom numbered as blossom number 1 develops into an okra pod allow it to get to the size you want and then when you cut the pod cut off the leaf beside it. As blossom number 2 develops into a pod repeat the procedure all the way up the stalk. 

In doing your okra this way and cutting the leaves away and exposing the stalks as the pods develop up the stalk you make cutting okra much easier because you are not fighting that jungle of sticky leaves. Therefore less itching. When our row gets to the point that we need a step ladder to pick it we quit. The pods on the very top we allow to develop fully into seed pods for next year : )  At the end of the season we simply take a machete and chop down the stalk saving the large dried pods at the very top for seeds. Don't wait too long or you'll have an acre of volunteers next year!

If you are going to pickle okra you want to cut it small. My cajun okra I cut larger so if you are growing okra do not let it get this big or it will be hard. Once your okra is cut bring it in and wash it. Do not cut into it or it will get slimy. Then let your okra dry completely. From there I put mine in the refrigerator in plastic bags until I am ready to prepare it. If you leave it in there too long it will continue to harden and get tough. 

Okra can be dehydrated.

Then stored in jars which makes it really easy to throw into soups and stews. 

Blanched then breaded and frozen.

Or just sliced, blanched and frozen. 

But the handiest way for me to put up okra is with tomatoes in a jar. Make a roux then add a jar of okra and tomatoes, a great big onion out of the garden, some home grown chicken and homemade venison andouille sausage and you have the makings of a gumbo.  

Thick rich and spicy served over rice, indeed a meal fit for a king. A hickery holler king anyway : )

So do yourself a favor and quit all that itching and prune your okra for heavens sake.

I'll do a separate post on how I blanch and freeze both my breaded and unbreaded okra in a different post.

Blessings from The Holler


  1. That was very helpful, well done. You have a beautiful garden. My neighbor and I read your blog everyday. We both garden, my garden is not as big and beautiful as yours. My neighbor's garden is actually her husbands garden. It is big and prolific and they share with us. I am new to this lifestyle (5 years now) and on a steep learning curve. I get a lot of help and teaching from your blog. Many thanks.

  2. What is the different in your okra and how do you save the seeds. I have learned so much
    from you.
    Blessings to you and your family


    1. Cajun Cowhorn makes very large bushes and I think is more forgiving than most okra varieties. If you skip a day on most okras it is too hard to eat. On Cowhorn plants if you miss a day of picking the plants the okra may be a bit larger but you still have pods soft enough to eat.

      Clemson Spineless is spineless which also makes it a gardeners favorite. I think it does not taste as good nor does it make as much. It must be cut daily or it is not edible in many cases.

  3. Girl! You are the Ever Ready bunny!

  4. Prepper A just said it's the "Energizer" bunny....whatever! You just don't stop.

  5. OH how I loved this post.... I quit growing okra 'cause I couldn't stand the prickles that go along with picking... SO, thanks for the tip on cutting the bottom leaves off as the plant goes upwards to produce more flowers to okra pods. I look forward to next summer as okra grow stupendously here in Texas, and will certainly print off how you blanch and prepare. Will dehydrate some too! Thank you SO much!

  6. Love this post.. But Okra is one of my most favorite vegetables and its tough to come by here in Ohio..Im a Texas Transplant. Last year I was able finally get okra to grow for me & I got about 4 gallon baggies stuffed full.. and then I let it go to seed... and the danged deer got most of it. I was so ticked off I couldnt see straight. This year, we put up fencing 7 or 8 foot tall but we still had a deer in there.. he didnt get much this year though because it rained so much, my garden never really got going.. Its been a bad year gardenwise, but theres always next year to try out your great okra leaf trick.. Looking forward to it.
    Used to grow Longhorn Okra in Texas.. Im assuming its the same thing as your Cajun Cowhorn.

    I just oven roasted some okra a few days ago and it was pretty good.. I drizzled some olive oil, added salt & pepper over frozen okra and mixed so that all were slightly covered, then spread it on a baking sheet that was covered with foil and baked at 400° for about 20-25 minutes, stirring a few times... It was pretty good.. much like fried okra, but without the cornmeal. Tasty!

  7. Cut the leaf...why did I not think of that??? One time Hubby came to pick me up for a date and I had to pick okra first. I disliked the picking because of the stickers and the itching. Hubby picked the okra...I think that is when I fell in love with him.

    1. I love it! What a great story and I would have fell in love with him too : ) I remember hubby coming to pick me up and sitting on the front porch swing with mama and daddy in a rocker and just visitin before we left.

  8. Thank you for the tips. I'll be looking forward to your 'how to' posts.

  9. My dog loves the tough pods. He eats and uses the tough fibrous strands like dental floss. It is a hoot!

  10. i have been growing okra this year famously! Unfortunately Im the only one around here that likes it, but I dont care. I would grow it just to look at the beautiful blooms if I had to!

    I wonder though, how do you save it for seeds? What are the steps, what do you let grow, how do you get them, etc? I would love to do that. I am interested in how you do this for all of your veggies, actually.

    LOVE your blog- its a big garden inspiration for me. :)


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