THE BOTANY OF OKRA
Okra (commonly called gumbo or quingumbo) is Hibiscus esculentus, that is edible hibiscus, of the Malvaceae (or Mallow) family. "Many other species of hibiscus are used as foods in various parts of the world. In this genus belong many species of ornamental flowering hibiscus, several of which are natives of the United States.
The okra plant is an annual, requiring warm growing conditions. It attains heights from 3 feet in dwarf varieties to 7 or 8 feet in others, with many short branches. Leaves are cordate (heart-shaped) and lobed or divided. The fruit is a long pod, generally ribbed, and spinelesss in cultivated kinds. Pods, the edible portion, are harvested while still tender and immature. They attain lengths of 6 to 8 inches, and up to 1 inch or more in diameter. First pods are ready for harvest about 2 months after planting, but plants continue to bloom and set if all pods are harvested at the proper early stage.
Excerpted from Sackett, Clarice. 1975February. Fruit & Vegetable Facts & Pointers: Okra. United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, 1019 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC.
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