Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Growing Okra: It's easy!

By Casey Calhoun, White House Organic Gardener
From The White House Gardener Mysteries by Dorothy St. James

Being from Charleston, South Carolina, let me tell you there are some staples in the kitchen garden I cannot live without. Okra is one of them. Okra is a green edible seed pod that makes gumbo have its distinctive texture. It's also delicious fried (isn't everything?)

The plant is super easy to grow. It's usually a tall plant (depending on the cultivar) with giant tropical looking leaves and pretty yellow flowers. You can grow them inside (but they are going to get tall), in pots, or in the ground. The plants like to be warm and will take to just about any condition.

The big yellow flower lasts one day, but is quickly replaced with a new one as the plant grows. If growing inside, don't worry about hand pollinating. They don't need it.

There is rarely a day without a flower, which means new pods are constantly setting.

Pick the pods when they are still relatively small and green (before they turn tough). They are ready a few days after the flower falls. If you get a big harvest, pickle them!

This year, instead of growing them in rows in the First Lady's kitchen garden, I talked Gordon into letting me use them as a backdrop in a corner the Rose garden. The okra mingled with the roses, lending a surprising look of the tropics to beds.

If you're looking for something a little different, and beautiful, to plant in your edible (or not so edible) try planting okra next spring. Your stomach will be thanking you.

What unexpected plantings have you made in past gardens?


You can learn more about Dorothy St. James's books at her website. Join her Facebook page. Or follow her on Twitter.

Praise for FLOWERBED OF STATE (book #1 in the White House Gardener Mysteries):
"Credible characters, a fast-paced plot, and a light look at political life in Washington, D.C., will delight cozy fans." ~ Publishers Weekly

Praise for THE SCARLET PEPPER (book #2 in the White House Gardener Mysteries):
"A potboiler of homicide, blackmail, journalism, power and sex - but one that St. James handles with taste as well as verve - “The Scarlet Pepper” fulfills the promise of last year’s series debut, “Flowerbed of State,” and then some." ~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

Praise for OAK AND DAGGER (book #3 in the White House Gardener Mysteries):
"Hang on tight! This story is a wild ride! I loved it!" ~ Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book Blog


  1. Thanks, Casey! The plants sound very striking. I may try it next year, but I'm afraid my yard is too shady for them.

  2. Wow! I am so impressed. I never knew any of this. Next year, I'm planting okra. Now, how does one avoid tomato blight when it rains every other day? ; )


  3. I have one more summer of travel softball and and then I hope to plant a kitchen garden. I have had too many gardens dry up while we are on the road for softball in the summer heat!

    I really loved the last book - can't wait for the next one.

  4. Congrats, you finally made me loop up Okra on Google. I have been reading about it countless times in my books, without any idea what it is. And now I know for sure, this is not for sale in Holland, I have never seen it.