Abelmoschus bammia Webb
Abelmoschus longifolius (Willd.) Kostel.
Abelmoschus officinalis (DC.) Endl.
Abelmoschus praecox Sickenb.
Abelmoschus tuberculatus Pal & Singh
Hibiscus esculentus L.
Hibiscus ficifolius Mill.
Hibiscus hispidissimus A.Chev.
Hibiscus longifolius Willd.
Hibiscus praecox Forssk.
Common Name: Okra
Immature fruits, harvested for food
Photograph by: fmpgoh
Okra is an erect, often much branched, slightly woody plant with spiny pubescence. It can grow from 2 - 4 metres tall[
Okra is commonly cultivated in warm temperate to tropical areas for its edible seedpod, there are many named varieties[
]. The plant also has a range of other food and medicinal uses.
The hairs on the seed pods can be an irritant to some people and gloves should be worn when harvesting. These hairs can be easily removed by washing[
The original habitat is obscure
Not known in a truly wild situation.
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
A plant of the tropical to warm temperate regions, most varieties grow well in the lowland humid tropics up to elevations of 1,000 metres. It is not so well suited to temperate areas, though varieties have been developed that can be grown successfully with a growing season of around 6 months. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 30°c, but can tolerate 12 - 35°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 1,200mm, but tolerates 300 - 2,500mm[
]. This species is not very productive in cooler temperate areas - it sometimes succeeds outdoors in hot summers but is really best grown in a greenhouse since it prefers daytime temperatures of 25°c or more and dislikes low night-time temperatures[
Prefers a well-drained humus rich fertile soil in full sun and a pH around 6 to 6.7[
] but it tolerates a wide range of soil types and pH from 5.5 to 8[
]. It prefers a soil with a high potash content[
]. The plant requires a warm sunny position sheltered from winds[
]. It likes plenty of moisture, both in the soil and in the atmosphere[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, tolerating 4.5 - 8.7[
Most cultivars require about 4 months from sowing before a crop is produced, though some early maturing varieties can produce a crop in 50 days in the tropics[
]. The harvest period may continue up to 180 days[
]. There are some early-maturing varieties that are more tolerant of cooler temperate conditions and these could be tried outdoors[
]. These include 'Clemson's Spineless', 'Emerald Spineless', 'Long Green' and 'Green Velvet'[
Yields of green pods are often low, about 2 - 4 tonnes per hectare owing to extreme growing conditiuons, but up to 10 - 40 tonnes may be produced[
The flowers are much visited by bees but they may require syringing in order to improve fertilization when plants are grown in a greenhouse.
Plants resent being transplanted[
Immature fruit - cooked on their own or added to soups etc[
]. They can be used fresh or dried[
], they are commonly used as a thickening for soups, stews and sauces[
]. Dried okra powder is used in salad dressings, ice creams, cheese spreads, and confectionery[
]. The fruits are rich in pectin and are also a fair source of iron and calcium[
]. The fresh fruits contain 740 iu vitamin A[
]. The fruit should be harvested whilst young, older fruits soon become fibrous[
]. The fruit can be up to 20cm long[
Seed - cooked or ground into a meal and used in making bread or made into 'tofu' or 'tempeh'[
The roasted seed is a coffee substitute[
]. Probably the best of the coffee substitutes[
The seed contains up to 22% of an edible oil[
The leaves, flower buds, flowers and calyces can be eaten cooked as greens[
]. The leaves can be dried, crushed into a powder and stored for later use[
]. They are also used as a flavouring[
Root - it is edible but very fibrous[
]. Mucilaginous, without very much flavour[
The roots are very rich in mucilage, having a strongly demulcent action[
]. They are said by some to be better than marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis)[
]. This mucilage can be used as a plasma replacement[
]. An infusion of the roots is used in the treatment of syphilis[
]. The juice of the roots is used externally in Nepal to treat cuts, wounds and boils[
The leaves furnish an emollient poultice[
A decoction of the immature capsules is demulcent, diuretic and emollient[
]. It is used in the treatment of catarrhal infections, ardor urinae, dysuria and gonorrhoea[
The seeds are antispasmodic, cordial and stimulant[
]. An infusion of the roasted seeds has sudorific properties[
A fibre obtained from the stems is used as a substitute for jute[
]. It is also used in making paper and textiles[
]. The fibres are about 2.4mm long[
]. When used for paper the stems are harvested in late summer or autumn after the edible seedpods have been harvested, the leaves are removed and the stems are steamed until the fibres can be stripped off. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye and then put in a ball mill for 3 hours. The paper is cream coloured[
The mucilage from the roots and stems has industrial value for clarifying sugarcane juice in gur manufacture[
A decoction of the root or of the seeds is used as a size for paper[
Seed - sow early spring in a warm greenhouse. The seed germinates in 27 days at 15°c or 6 days at 35°c[
]. When large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts[