July 2018 – Crop of the Month
Okra – Scientific Name: Abelmoschus esculentus
Family: Malvaceae (the Mallow family)
If you are still putting annual vegetable seeds into the ground at this time of the year, early summer (June 21 through July 21), then okra ought to be on your list. It is one of the most successful annual vegetables that can still be planted in July, and though it requires a little bit of “dressing up” to be more palatable to eat, it is hardy, nutritious, and does well in our summer’s high temperatures and high humidity.
Okra can be planted by seed after soil temperatures have gotten above 65 degrees (mid to late March), and then be planted by seed through the first part of August.
Like most annual vegetables okra also does really well if the soil has been turned to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Soils can also be conditioned with sheet mulching rather than turning, which I do recommend, but sheet mulching requires more lead time. A late spring, early summer bed needs to have been sheet mulched and kept moist since the previous fall for best results.
Okra seeds should be planted 1″ deep 4″ apart in a row. The rows should be about 36″ apart.
As we have noted before, it is a good practice to put out at least 2″ of compost over your garden annually, if not biannually. I would do this in the spring and in the fall. Organic slow release fertilizers should be put out under your compost, or in and along side each seed in order to help your vegetables along.
I like the organic Bio-tone products.
When you harvest okra, harvest it while it is still small and tender, less than 4″ long or so, while still green and tender.
You should wear long pants, long sleeves, and gloves when harvesting as okra has spicules on its surface that will irritate your skin. Collect it in a wicker basket or paper bag and then refrigerate it as soon as you can.
Prepare your palates picky eaters and cook your okra wisely. Okra is mucilaginous (slimy, especially when just boiled) and is easier for me to eat it when it is battered and fried, and or added to a large pot of gumbo.
What a great summer crop, though, to be able to enjoy here in Texas!
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