I have okra that seems to be on steroids - are there different varieties?

We have started growing okra which, to me, is usually about the size of the index finger. These things are about 20cm long (about 8") and not yet fully green! Should I be picking them earlier or are these some mutant variety?

Jethro Bodine
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8 Comments

gandalf January 20, 2021
I have been growing a variety of okra for the past several years that, if left alone, will have pods that reach 10-12" in length while green. I usually will pick the okra pods when they are 6" or less in length, because I find that when I try to cut/cook the very long pods, they are tough and stringy. So my recommendation is to pick your pods when they are short, in order to have more tender pods.

I usually only need 5 or 6 okra plants in my garden to get all the okra that I need; but in order to have only smaller pods to use, I usually will pick the pods from the garden every 2-3 days; most of the okra pods I will cut up in 1/4-1/2" slices and freeze them so that I can use them in soups, stews, and other dishes. Or I will keep a few whole pods from a day's picking in the refrigerator, and then roast them in the oven.

If I want to obtain seeds for the next year or so, I will let the pods grow to their maximum length and turn brown on the plant, then bring them inside and let them dry before recovering the seeds from the pods.
 
Jethro B. January 20, 2021
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I ended up currying the large okra with tomatoes and eggplant, the flavor was very good but a couple of them were a bit stringy. I'll pick them smaller next time, I was just a bit concerned that if they weren't completely green they wouldn't be ready for cooking. I never thought about roasting them - will try that next! Thanks again.
 
gandalf January 20, 2021
When I roast okra pods, I will put them in a mixing bowl and drizzle some oil over them. I then place them on a sheet pan, sprinkle them with a little Tony Chachere's creole seasoning or with chile powder, and roast at 400 F for 5 or so minutes on each side. You need to be careful because you want to roast them just enough but avoid cooking them too crisp; I usually have to watch them carefully in the oven. Good luck!
 
Jethro B. January 20, 2021
Thanks again! I was wondering how to approach this as I have a lot of okra at the moment. I'll try it tonight now using the larger ones; if I roast them I imagine stringiness shouldn't be as much of an issue.
 
702551 January 19, 2021
Short answer: yes, there are different varieties.

Every plant and animal that humans have raised has multiple varieties/breeds/cultivars/etc. We breed things for specific characteristics. And that's beyond what Mother Nature does herself.

Often there are hundreds of varieties but the number of them that are commercially marketed in mainstream USA can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

This Q&A forum is the wrong venue for a learned discussion on botanical diversity. Anyhow, here's a starter article on 13 varieties of okra:

https://gardenerspath.com/plants/vegetables/okra-varieties/

in answer to your question, there are many okra varieties available to grow.

I suggest you take some photos of the plant and bring one of the pods to a local plant nursery and ask the staff. Most likely the local nurseries stock cultivars that work well for your local microclimate and soil. What is in your garden may be a decently marketed variety in your area but might be an oddity or unsuitable candidate for another part of the country.

You could post a photo of the plant here however there are relatively few gardeners frequenting this site. I would start at my local nursery...
 
Jethro B. January 19, 2021
Thank you so much - and what a great article from that link!
 
702551 January 19, 2021
It was the top hit from a simple Internet search. I have zero familiarity with that site or the article's author.

There are plenty more articles like this all over the Internet.

Just remember that Food52 is a food community first, not a garden community. As I mentioned, very few participants here are gardeners.

 
Jethro B. January 19, 2021
Sorry. I'm 84 and not great with computers. I searched "Okra" and everything came up with something to do with computer technology. I was unclear too in my question; I was wondering more if I should cook them when they were small of if I should leave them, perhaps they would be "woody" if I did.
 
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