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Abelmoschus esculentus - (L.)Moench.                
Common Name Okra
Family Malvaceae
Synonyms Hibiscus esculentus. L.
Known Hazards The hairs on the seed pods can be an irritant to some people and gloves should be worn when harvesting. These hairs can be easily removed by washing[200].
Habitats Not known in a truly wild situation.
Range The original habitat is obscure.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Moist Soil Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Abelmoschus esculentus is a ANNUAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.

USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

Abelmoschus esculentus Okra

Abelmoschus esculentus Okra
 Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Leaves;  Oil;  Root;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Coffee;  Oil;  Pectin.

Immature fruit - cooked on their own or added to soups etc[2, 27]. They can be used fresh or dried[183]. Mucilaginous[133], they are commonly used as a thickening for soups, stews and sauces[183]. The fruits are rich in pectin and are also a fair source of iron and calcium[240]. The fresh fruits contain 740 iu vitamin A[240]. The fruit should be harvested whilst young, older fruits soon become fibrous[133]. The fruit can be up to 20cm long[200]. Seed - cooked or ground into a meal and used in making bread or made into 'tofu' or 'tempeh'[183]. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute[2, 27, 133]. Probably the best of the coffee substitutes[74]. The seed contains up to 22% of an edible oil[55, 74, 177, 183, 240]. The leaves, flower buds, flowers and calyces can be eaten cooked as greens[183]. The leaves can be dried, crushed into a powder and stored for later use[183]. They are also used as a flavouring[133]. Root - it is edible but very fibrous[144]. Mucilaginous, without very much flavour[144].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antispasmodic;  Demulcent;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Emollient;  Stimulant;  Vulnerary.

The roots are very rich in mucilage, having a strongly demulcent action[4, 21]. They are said by some to be better than marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis)[4]. This mucilage can be used as a plasma replacement[240]. An infusion of the roots is used in the treatment of syphilis[240]. The juice of the roots is used externally in Nepal to treat cuts, wounds and boils[272]. The leaves furnish an emollient poultice[4, 21, 240]. A decoction of the immature capsules is demulcent, diuretic and emollient[240]. It is used in the treatment of catarrhal infections, ardor urinae, dysuria and gonorrhoea[240]. The seeds are antispasmodic, cordial and stimulant[240]. An infusion of the roasted seeds has sudorific properties[240].
Other Uses
Fibre;  Oil;  Paper;  Pectin;  Size.

A fibre obtained from the stems is used as a substitute for jute[57, 61, 74, 169]. It is also used in making paper and textiles[171]. The fibres are about 2.4mm long[189]. When used for paper the stems are harvested in late summer or autumn after the edible seedpods have been harvested, the leaves are removed and the stems are steamed until the fibres can be stripped off. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye and then put in a ball mill for 3 hours. The paper is cream coloured[189]. A decoction of the root or of the seeds is used as a size for paper[178].
Cultivation details                                         
Prefers a well-drained humus rich fertile soil in full sun and a pH around 6 to 6.7[200] but it tolerates a wide range of soil types and pH from 5.5 to 8[200]. It prefers a soil with a high potash content[264]. The plant requires a warm sunny position sheltered from winds[200]. It likes plenty of moisture, both in the soil and in the atmosphere[133]. Okra is commonly cultivated in warm temperate and tropical areas for its edible seedpod, there are many named varieties[183, 200]. Most cultivars require about 4 months from sowing before a crop is produced, though some early maturing varieties can produce a crop in 50 days in the tropics[264]. This species is not very hardy in Britain, it sometimes succeeds outdoors in hot summers but is really best grown in a greenhouse since it prefers daytime temperatures of 25°c or more[260]. Plants also dislike low night temperatures[133]. There are some early-maturing varieties that are more tolerant of cooler temperate conditions and these could be tried outdoors[200]. These include 'Clemson's Spineless', 'Emerald Spineless', 'Long Green' and 'Green Velvet'[200]. The flowers are much visited by bees but they may require syringing in order to improve fertilization when plants are grown in a greenhouse. Plants resent being transplanted[133].
Seed - sow early spring in a warm greenhouse. The seed germinates in 27 days at 15°c or 6 days at 35°c[133]. When large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts[200].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[27]Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden.
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.
[55]Harris. B. C. Eat the Weeds.
Interesting reading.
[57]Schery. R. W. Plants for Man.
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[74]Komarov. V. L. Flora of the USSR.
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers.
[133]Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 1.
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation.
[144]Cribb. A. B. and J. W. Wild Food in Australia.
A very good pocket guide.
[169]Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden.
Covers all aspects of growing your own clothes, from fibre plants to dyes.
[171]Hill. A. F. Economic Botany.
Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some a bit of detail about the plants it does cover.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[178]Stuart. Rev. G. A. Chinese Materia Medica.
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[189]Bell. L. A. Plant Fibres for Papermaking.
A good practical section on how to make paper on a small scale plus details of about 75 species (quite a few of them tropical) that can be used.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[240]Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
[260]Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Conservatory and Indoor Plants Volumes 1 & 2
Excellent photos of over 1,100 species and cultivars with habits and cultivation details plus a few plant uses. Many species are too tender for outdoors in Britain though there are many that can be grown outside.
[264]Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Vegetables
Excellent and easily read book with good information and an excellent collection of photos of vegetables from around the world, including many unusual species.
[272]Manandhar. N. P. Plants and People of Nepal
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
jahara lou Sun Jan 16 08:40:29 2005
uhm for me this plant is very useful because it has also many uses like other plants in the world. If i could have the authority to name this plant as one of the world future plants i would be honor to do that ok

Link: Jaharas website wala lang

Elizabeth H.
Mandy Fri Apr 14 2006
I'm an ethnobiology student and am currentyly working on an ethnography of okra. I need someone knowledgable on the subject to answer some anthropologuical questions for me so I can begin to write my paper. Are there any okra experts out there?
Elizabeth H.
Raul Mon Jul 9 2007
Does okra increses uric acid?
Elizabeth H.
HONEY Mon Jul 16 2007
Can someone help me out? i need to know about the different vegetative structures of okra... if you could badly answer my question...send me an email...thanks!
Elizabeth H.
ZIRLANCE Fri Feb 22 2008
Elizabeth H.
paul Tue Nov 4 2008
could anybody tell me if it is possible to grow abelmoschus esculentus (okra) all year round in morocco north africa if so how
Elizabeth H.
celine Thu Nov 27 2008
can okra help in lowering blood sugar level?
Elizabeth H.
pradeep Sat Feb 21 2009 heterosis breeding in okra

Elizabeth H.
prasanna Thu Sep 17 2009
i want the antiobesity property& which part is useful.

Elizabeth H.
alfred agyekum Tue Oct 13 2009
nematode infection in Abelmoschus esculentus
Elizabeth H.
Raffi Fri Oct 23 2009 - Garden wiki & Plant encyclopedia Cultivation, propagation info and photos

Elizabeth H.
Daniel Wed Nov 4 2009
do okra have antidiabetic properties? (already proven/in testing)
Trevor P.
This great site Mar 18 2010 12:00AM
This is a great plant
Plants For A Future
steve T.
Aug 25 2012 12:00AM
Easy to grow in the tropics and seems bug disease resistant.
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