Okra will help take me back to my roots, to a time when my Dad would drive some of “us kids” down to visit our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in southern Indiana. If our visit was in late summer, one of the foods we’d eat there, that we never ate any place else, was fried okra. It’s been awhile since I’ve had any fried okra, but I kinda sorta vaguely remember that I liked it.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll like it now, by the way, depending on how I fry it. I’m sure they fried the okra in pure lard which I wouldn’t do today. But I’m going to try to grow some anyway and give it a try.
One of my uncles recommended that I try a variety called ‘Emerald’, which is described in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog as “A Campbell Soup Co. variety from 1950, early, round-smooth, deep-green tasty pods, high quality and early, tall plants.” While I would like to grow a couple of varieties to see which one does best in my garden, okra is a fairly large shrub like plant which will take quite a bit of space, so I’ll just go with ‘Emerald’ and hope it does well here.
As far as growing okra, I think I am about as far north as you can be and still grow it successfully. If I were blindly choosing a variety, I would look for one described as “early”, which would probably be right for my garden. Okra also needs warm soil for the seed to germinate, so it may be Memorial Day before I sow the seeds outdoors. To hedge my bets a little, I may start some seeds indoors a few weeks before then as well, and plant those seedlings out in the garden the same day I sow the seeds outdoors.
Hopefully by late July, early August, I’ll have some okra to pick and then I can get the “secret family okra” recipe and try to repeat the magic of a summer’s weekend spent with all kinds of relatives, eating fried okra. If I turns out I don’t like okra as much now as then, that’s okay, because okra is in the Mallow family, Malvaceae, and has those big white to yellow flowers that sort of look like another member of that family, Hollyhocks. So if nothing else, okra should be a pretty plant in the garden.
What’s your new vegetable going to be this year?
(Image above courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.)