This year’s New Vegetable to Plant in My Garden will be…
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.)
Wow, okra. I'm impressed. Will you start the seeds indoors? I don't know what new veggie I will grow this year. I guess I better take a gander at those seed catalogs soon. When do you want to start our letters my friend? In February?~~Dee
Oooo, now you're talking my (southern) language. I grow the Clemson Spineless from Baker Seeds (How I love their pretty new catalog). I'm one of those rare folks that likes okra cooked any ole way… we do it with just sauteed onions or with those and some stewed tomatoes but fried is my abosolute all-time favorite. Warning: Not easy on the hips.
You are so right about the flowers. I like them almost as much as I like the fruit. Okra is great for our climate as it seems to flourish in the summer humidity unlike anything else (well, maybe eggplant).
Not sure what I'll try new this year. Have so many seeds left over from Fall and not enough room to plant.
Hope you like your okra all fried up so you can be transported back in time.
Teresa O says
I must admit…I've never grown okra and worse…I've never eaten it. Good luck in your okra planting venture.
Good luck. I love fresh okra, as do most people in the Caribbean, but most Americans we come across hate it or don't want to try it. Maybe its the way they had it prepared.
We love it fried especially with onions, garlic and Indian spices, in callaloo soup, in yellow dal, fried in spicy cornmeal batter…
Ooooh, okra. I'm anxious to hear how it fares in Indiana. People I've known who've tried it here in Oregon have had mixed results.
Our new plant this year is parsnips. They keep well, they grow well, they are perfect for fall and winter!
(Is it time to plant peas yet?)
Kate/High Altitude Gardening says
I'm impressed, too, though I've never even tasted it. I s'pose that's a circumstance of being raised so far north. I am anxious to check out this seed catalog…
I grew okra one year and put it in a soup. I did direct sow the okra seed into the ground I live in zone 5.
For me a new vegetable but maybe more of a fruit will be sugar baby watermelon from Pinetree Garden seeds
Also red cheese pepper from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.
I shall start both indoors. The peppers in February and the watermelon early April I believe
Sweet Home and Garden Carolina says
Well butter my biscuit 🙂 I've eaten many delicious summer meals of okra but the first thing I noticed when I came up North was that you could hardly find it.
I'm working on getting that vegetable garden for this Spring in the area you recommended, Carol. I'm thinking leaf lettuce, green onions, garlic and seedless cukes.
Petunia's Gardener says
I loved okra once I grew my own (when I lived in AL). I thought about trying it here in WA now that I have a little greenhouse. I don't seem to be able to fry anything so I went with a good tomato & okra recipe. Had lots of tomatoes in AL, too! I'll see if I can find it.
Enjoy these planning days!
Good luck with the okra, and I'm looking forward to seeing your secret family recipe for frying it–that is, if you're willing to share it. I think I've had fried okra maybe once, and it was…well, okay. But I have added some to vegetable soup occasionally, which adds a little different taste. My new vegetable this year? Provided I can get my garden bed ready early, I have been wanting to plant sugar peas for a long time. Looks like, though, I'd better get busy and order seeds before they're all gone!
I love Okra!!! AWESOME!! Especially fried!!
Lack of summer heat is an issue with growing vegetables here in Seattle. I'm going to get a hold of different colored potatoes and try those. If they can grow potatoes in Ireland, I can grow them here.
chuck b. says
Okra turns up frequently in my eatings out. I've never detected much flavor in any of its preparations that I've had and I think I like it best in soup.
I'm going to try this rampicante squash this year, although I have absolutely no room for it. I have extra seeds if you're interested.
Stopwatch Gardener says
Mm, okra, lovely if you find a chana massala recipe and mix in some okra with it. I remember having okra very nicely prepared (fried) and also not so nicely done (slimy when bitten). Good luck with yours! The flowers are indeed hollyhock-y.
love, love fried okra. I fry it up and freeze it for the winter. Not quite a good as freshly made but I'll manage. I dip it in locally ground cornmeal and fry it in vegetable oil, serve it with homemade bbq sauce.
I've always thought okra needed hot weather to thrive. Mine struggled last year with the cool wet summer (zone 6, western NC mountains) whereas it did well the previous years, which were hotter and drier.
Oh, what a great choice! I grew Fife Creek Cowhorn okra, an heirloom variety, last year, and we had great results with it. The flowers looked like white hibiscus!
Fried is wonderful (make sure you use cornmeal & flour), but there's also using it to thicken up stews (just put it in about 10 minutes before serving, so it doesn't get too slimy for those who are sensitive), and of course pickling! Homesick Texan's blog had an awesome recipe for spicy pickled okra this year.
Did you know okra is a source of protein, unlike many vegetables?
Okay, enough with my Southern love of okra. We're trying peas and carrots this year for the first time. I doubt the carrots will do much with this clay soil, and the peas will only fatten up properly if we start planting on February 1st, I'm told.
Lisa at Greenbow says
I like okra pickled the best. Maybe you will try some pickled okra this year. Okra will look interesting in your garden anyway.
Okra does not appeal, and I might find it difficult anyway – thankfully, but you've given me a new perspective for going through the seed catalogs. Here's the question. Does it have to be an entirely new vegetable, or merely a new variety? I'll give that some thought.
My mother always grew okra in her garden. I've never tried it, as I am the only one in my family that likes to eat it.
Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog says
I haven't decided what my new veggie will be yet. It all depends on if I find room for more veggies by making some new beds. Or not. Hopefully I'll get a new pepper to try out.
You might like okra pickled. Have you ever tried that? It's healthier than fried and has a great crunch. One thing I wouldn't expect is for someone in zone 5 to grow it! But you're right, the flowers are purty.
Christopher C. NC says
Every once in a while I can have a craving for fried okra. I have had it with a nice horseradish dipping sauce. The Irish midwest lineage of mine that ended up in the south stuck to their meat and potatoes cooking for the most part. I had to eat out for real southern food.
I bet you would have more luck growing okra than me up here in the cool mountain air. Anything that really likes it hot sulks up here.
I am supposed to be growing strawberries new this year, a requested item.
Melanie J Watts says
I too have never eaten Okra. I don't even know what it looks like. You will have to post lots of photos and recipes and descriptions for us uninitiated
Annie in Austin says
Carol, you're making me hungry!
We love okra -sometimes find it at Farmers Markets but frozen whole okra works okay in chicken gumbo.
There's a restaurant called Green Mesquite (here's their website) on Barton Springs road (not too far from Zilker Park & Zanthan Gardens) that serves up some delicious fried okra.
Good luck with that crop!
Annie at the Transplantable Rose
We are going crazy and trying peas. I know, not new for anyone else in the planet, but our gardening decisions are driven by someone who cannot read yet.
Carol, I might give okra a try this year too" I never thought about growing it.
It's a unique looking veggie that I think may be fun to grow.
My mother loves it..I like it, but only if it's cooked firm.. My mother likes to cook it until it's a soggy mess!
Okra plants are indeed handsome — a good reason for growing it. As for actually eating it, well — maybe, if I can fry it I might try it, but the only time I had it, it was slimy and totally put me off.
My new vegetable this year is Jarradale Pumpkin, from Baker Creek. I love pumpkin, and finally have a space big enough(I think) for a wandering vine.
Tee Riddle says
Hello! Okra…now you are talking my language! Okra is a staple of my vegetable garden. I live in southeast Virginia, so we get plenty of summer heat in order for this plant to thrive. I mainly grow Clemson Spineless and Cajun Delight varieties. They are not heirlooms, but produce a continuous supply of great tasting pods all summer. The key is to harvest when the pods are young. Pick early, pick often. 😉
If you live far north or in a cool summer climate, you can try North & South. It was developed especially for cooler weather. Typical okra needs very warm temperatures – the hotter the better. Okra originated from Africa, so you know its a heat lover.
I hope you enjoy growing okra, and I can't wait to hear how it progresses in your garden this year.
Carol, I grew okra for the first time last year and the variety was Emerald. It was a pretty plant – kind of rangy, but tropical-looking. It stayed healthy and productive all through the summer and looked like it would keep on into the fall except the deer ate it. The pods stayed nice and tender even when they were quite large (6 inches long maybe?). I set out transplants instead of direct seeding. The only problem I had (besides the deer) was that I didn't set out enough transplants – only 2. Although each plant was productive over the course of the summer, there weren't enough pods ready at the same time to make much of a meal.
I used it mostly for Indian dishes, but one tip is that if you cook it with tomatoes or something else acidic it won't be viscous and slimy.
Hope you like it!
i am trying okra too this year. i have seen it grow well down here, but i know it is a tad warmer in bloomington. it is a beautiful plant and flower, and i am hoping to pickle mine!