Okras are tender annual plants grown for their edible pods. They are also known as ladies’ fingers. The pods are 10-25 cm long and can be white, green or red depending on the cultivar. Immature pods are eaten as a cooked vegetable and mature pods may be dried and powdered for use as a flavoring.
In warm-temperate and subtropical area okras may be grown in open only in very favorable, sunny conditions. Seeds germinate only at soil temperatures of at least 16 Celsius degrees (61 F). Soak the seeds for 24 hours before sowing to aid germination. Sow in situ in rows 60-70 cm apart and leaving 20-30 cm between plants. In warm-temperate areas sow in spring under cover at at least 20 Celsius degrees in trays or 6-9 cm pots. After germination, for optimum growth, a stable temperature between 20-30 Celsius degrees (68-86 F) is needed. When seedlings are 10-15 tall harden them off and transplant them to well-prepared beds.
For best growing conditions, plant okras in well-drained soil, adding plenty of organic material. They also need low to medium nitrogen levels in order to develop well. Stake tall plants and protect from strong winds with plastic covers or screens. Weed and water regularly and apply an organic mulch to retain moisture. Pinch out the growing points when plants are about 60 cm tall to promote branching. Apply a liquid feed or a general purpose fertilizer at two-weeks intervals to encourage rapid growth. Do not overfeed with nitrogen as this will delay flowering.
In colder areas transplant seedlings into well-prepared beds in the greenhouse or in growing bags, spacing plants at least 40 cm apart. Keep the temperature above 20 Celsius degrees (68 F) and a humidity of over 70 per cent. Keep an eye on plants and control pests and diseases and apply an organic liquid feed or a general purpose fertilizer.
Each plant will produce about 4-6 pods that can be harvested after about 8-11 weeks after sowing, depending on the cultivar. Sever the pods from the plant with a sharp knife when they are bright green. Overmature pods may become fibrous. Store the pods in perforated bags at 7-10 Celsius degrees (45-50 F) for up to ten days.