Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)

Hibiscus esculentus. L.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Abelmoschus esculentus

A fibre obtained from the stems is used as a substitute for jute[57, 61, 74, 169]. It is also used in making paper and textiles[171]. The fibres are about 2.4mm long[189]. 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[189].

A decoction of the root or of the seeds is used as a size for paper[178].

  • Medicinal Use

    The roots are very rich in mucilage, having a strongly demulcent action[4, 21]. They are said by some to be better than marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis)[4]. This mucilage can be used as a plasma replacement[240]. An infusion of the roots is used in the treatment of syphilis[240]. The juice of the roots is used externally in Nepal to treat cuts, wounds and boils[272].

    The leaves furnish an emollient poultice[4, 21, 240].

    A decoction of the immature capsules is demulcent, diuretic and emollient[240]. It is used in the treatment of catarrhal infections, ardor urinae, dysuria and gonorrhoea[240].

    The seeds are antispasmodic, cordial and stimulant[240]. An infusion of the roasted seeds has sudorific properties[240].

  • Edible Use

    Immature fruit – cooked on their own or added to soups etc[2, 27]. They can be used fresh or dried[183]. Mucilaginous[133], they are commonly used as a thickening for soups, stews and sauces[183]. The fruits are rich in pectin and are also a fair source of iron and calcium[240]. The fresh fruits contain 740 iu vitamin A[240]. The fruit should be harvested whilst young, older fruits soon become fibrous[133]. The fruit can be up to 20cm long[200].

    Seed – cooked or ground into a meal and used in making bread or made into ‘tofu’ or ‘tempeh'[183].

    The roasted seed is a coffee substitute[2, 27, 133]. Probably the best of the coffee substitutes[74].

    The seed contains up to 22% of an edible oil[55, 74, 177, 183, 240].

    The leaves, flower buds, flowers and calyces can be eaten cooked as greens[183]. The leaves can be dried, crushed into a powder and stored for later use[183]. They are also used as a flavouring[133].

    Root – it is edible but very fibrous[144]. Mucilaginous, without very much flavour[144].

  • Cautionary Notes

    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[200].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow early spring in a warm greenhouse. The seed germinates in 27 days at 15¡c or 6 days at 35¡c[133]. When large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts[200].
Prefers a well-drained humus rich fertile soil in full sun and a pH around 6 to 6.7[200] but it tolerates a wide range of soil types and pH from 5.5 to 8[200]. It prefers a soil with a high potash content[264]. The plant requires a warm sunny position sheltered from winds[200]. It likes plenty of moisture, both in the soil and in the atmosphere[133]. Okra is commonly cultivated in warm temperate and tropical areas for its edible seedpod, there are many named varieties[183, 200]. 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[264]. This species is not very hardy in Britain, 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[260]. Plants also dislike low night temperatures[133]. There are some early-maturing varieties that are more tolerant of cooler temperate conditions and these could be tried outdoors[200]. These include ‘Clemson’s Spineless’, ‘Emerald Spineless’, ‘Long Green’ and ‘Green Velvet'[200]. 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[133].
The original habitat is obscure.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.