The okra plant (also known as poleax) is a large, bushy vine that grows up to six feet tall. The plant has a fleshy green taproot and six oval, fleshy leaves, with purple, red, or maroon ribbons lining the branches. The plant grows best in rich soil with lots of drainage, is found primarily in floodplains and swamps, and is native to Central and South America.
The okra plant has a straight upright growth habit; its palmate leaves have two to three lobes, the flowers are white or yellow, and the stems are paper-like. The flower stems often curl over the seed pod and open up to allow air circulation around the seed pod. The flowers can be pink, white, or red and have many tiny stamens. The seed pods are up to seven inches in length, and contain white or yellow seeds that contain small black seeds.
The okra plant’s preferred location is moist soil but does well in dry soil also. It prefers fertile soil that contains lots of dissolved oxygen. The crop produced by the okra plant is a globular purple or maroon structure, about two to four inches in diameter. The pods have a rounded shape and are loaded down with seed. The outer skin of the pod is rough like rough bark, and the inner flesh is soft and sweet.
Growing the okra plant is not easy. It prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Although it does extremely well in full sun, it will do better in shaded areas. The okra plant likes a warm location that has lots of moisture. Some kinds of okra are heavy feeders and will grow on trees, so this should be taken into consideration if you are going to grow them in your yard. Some varieties can grow on fences too.
Harvesting the plant is simple, but you have to be careful, or the seed pods could break off and spill out on to the nearby forest. Harvesting should be done just before the pod is dry. Do not harvest the plant when it is wet or slimy. Once the okra plant is harvested, you have to put it into a big Tupperware container to dry for a few days.
Okra needs lots of sunlight, and lots of water. It is an annual crop and will grow best in a well drained, rich soil. If you cannot grow the plant in heavy clay soil, then the best choice would probably be alfalfa. The PH level of the soil you grow plants in plays a major part in the taste of the finished product. The more alkaline the soil, the milder it will be in taste, while a high ph level will produce a bitter alkaline like taste. It is recommended that you test your soil pH levels with a kit from the nursery, before you start planting.