Harvesting Okra

Okra is one of those vegetables that I’m much less familiar with, and it also fits my category of “if you have to bread it and fry it to make it edible, it either isn’t edible or isn’t a vegetable.” That said, one of the biggest mistakes that people make with okra is harvesting it. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen grossly over-sized okra entered in a county fair.

Okra goes from budded to over-mature in seemingly the blink of an eye. Here you can see the cluster of buds at the top and a couple flowers that are opening.

Here’s the okra a couple days after flowering. Actually, I would consider the okra on the right to be just about the right size. If you gently squeeze it, it is still tender and not too woody. Woody okra – yuck!

If you don’t harvest your okra regularly (every day or every other day), this is what you are going to end up with – huge okra that is extremely woody and not very tasty. The more medium sized pods on the left are probably still good for things like gumbo, although they are best slightly smaller.

Another thing to be wary of when harvesting okra is that a lot of people are very sensitive to the hairs on the leaves and stems of okra plants. If you don’t want to get VERY itchy when you harvest, you may want to wear some combination of long sleeves, gloves, and use a pair of pruners or scissors!

Does anyone have a good okra recipe they’d like to share? (Other than breading and frying.)

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on September 15, 2011, in Family of 4 Garden and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’ve always thought okra was a beautiful plant. Nice post.

  2. Pickled okra. It’s also a good way to determine if you’re picking them too large: if you can’t fit them efficiently in a pint jar, you need to pick earlier. I don’t know if the vinegar dissolves the mucilage or what, but good spicy okra pickles aren’t goopy at all.

    Are those Clemson Spineless? The leaves look like it. I grew a dwarf variety (can’t remember which one; whatever Valley Feed carries) last year and it was interesting just how different the leaves are. Almost no lobes at all, compared to the so-called Spineless that almost form separate leaves.

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