Aug 9 – Red Velvet Okra

 
I have been growing okra for some time now – long enough that I first called it "star vegetable" for my young boys – just in case they had heard anything negative about Okra – while at daycare…
 
Truly, though, I have always romanced the veggies that come from BG in order to entice them and IT HAS WORKED! My kids eat their veggies and sometime ask for seconds!
 
When Logan was very little, he would not try many vegetables until one day, I made a Caesar Salad and he inhaled it – this was when he was under 2 years old. After that, he wanted to "visit" the romaine lettuce whenever we went to the grocery store – kind of like visiting the lobsters… We still joke about this, but I swear their early exposure to produce has created healthier eating!
 
So, back to the Okra – this plant is gorgeous and I didn’t get any last year due to the deer. SO, I am very pleased to see these plants looking so good! I also grow Clemson Spineless Okra – a more traditional green. Interesting factoid – the red okras are green inside and turn more green when cooked! Their flavor is not noticilby different but how fun to have a great looking plant in the garden. Okra is in the same family as hibiscus, which is evident when you see their flowers – beautiful but tucked under the leaves. While one tends to think of this as a southern crop, it grows very well in my hot and humid midwestern garden. I have always started the seeds directly in the soil in early June. Due to my issues with weeds this year, I MAY try to start them in my seed trays just to see how they transplant – would like to get them to table sooner too!
 
Okra pods are best when you pick them as they reach the size of your pinky finger – wait too long and they lose moisture and get woody – fine if you want to dry them and use them in crafts – this stage’s longer shape is very interesting. I have seen arrangements and wreathes made from the pods that have gone too long – even painted black or silver (think Halloween…) – so, they don’t need to go to waste.
 
I have found that I need to grow about 6-8 plants to have enough ready at one time to feed all four of us. I only stir fry them at this point – really need a good gumbo recipe. Please share!
 
Which reminds me of another funny little boy story: before I ever grew them, I took Jackson – then less than 2 to a restaurant in SC and he, in PJs, relaxing in his car seat tableside, sucked contentedly on an okra pod plucked from his Aunt’s dinner… YUMMO!
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