Abelmoschus esculentus is believed to have originated around Ethiopia and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians by 12th century B.C. Cultivation spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Okra was introduced to the Caribbean and the U.S. in the 1700's by enslaved persons. Okra needs full sun and rich, well-drained soil. Add compost to the soil before planting or fertilize the plants monthly. Okra grows 6-8' tall and 2-3' wide and produce beautiful creamy yellow, hibiscus like flowers with a crimson throat. Harvest the green pods when they are 3-5" long, before they become woody. The plant produces pods about 55 days after sowing. Okra is not cold tolerant. Sow seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost date. Plant seeds ½" deep and place the trays or pots on a heat mat at 75-80°F. Harden off the seedlings before planting the transplants outside; spacing them 1.5-2' apart. Seeds may also be sown directly in the garden when the soil is 65-70°F or warmer. Soak seeds overnight in warm water to speed up germination. USDA Zones 2-10.
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