Growing Okra – A Southern Delight

growing okra

This red okra selection is called Burgundy.

Eagle Pass selection of Okra

Eagle Pass selection of Okra

I have been growing okra in my garden for many years and have learned a couple of things. Plant it late. I planted mine the first of June this year, and we had our first serving about the 15th of July. For as long as I can remember, I planted Clemson Spineless (after all I am a Clemson grad). But, when you only have a few plants, by the time you have enough pods to have a serving, the larger pods are tough. So, if you have a small garden space, Clemson spineless is not a good selection. I went exploring seed catalogues for some selections that stay tender, even when they get large enough that you think they would be tough. The two pictured, while totally different in looks, are tender and not stringy. Burgundy can produce a very long pod (picked one about 8 inches long yesterday), and Eagle Pass pods get really fat but still stay tender. In fact, I was sure some of the ones we had tonight would be tough, but they were tender and flavorful. Here is Pam’s test to see if the pod is tough before cooking. She takes a sharp knife, and if she can easily cut though the portion next to the pod where it has been cut from the plant, she declares it tender enough for eating. I have never seen this not be true.
If all goes well, we will have a nice production of okra pods until mid-September when the weather cools. Only then will I know if I have found my new okra selections. So, I guess this Clemson grad is ready to ditch Clemson Spineless.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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