Okra growing in a Sub-urban garden

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Botanical Name:Abelmoschus esculentus
Family: Malvaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malvales
Genus: Abelmoschus
synonym: Hibiscus esculentus L.

Other Names:
Okra, Okro, Ochro, Okoro, Quimgombo (Cuba), Quingumbo, Ladies Fingers,gombo, quingombo, Gombo, Kopi Arab, Kacang Bendi, Bhindi (S. Asia), Bendi (Malaysia), Bamia, Bamya or Bamieh (middle east), Gumbo (Southern USA), Quiabo, Quiabos (Portugal and Angola), okura (Japan), qiu kui (Taiwan),in India it is bhindi,eastern Mediterranean and Arab countries bamies.

Parts Used: Immature pods

Etymology, origin and distribution
The name “okra” is of West African origin . In various Bantu languages, okra is called “kingombo” or a variant thereof, and this is the origin of its name in Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French. The Arabic “bemyah” is the basis of the names in the Middle East, the Balkans, Turkey, Greece, North Africa and Russia. In Southern Asia, its name is usually a variant of “bhindi” or “vendi.”

The species apparently originated in the Ethiopian Highlands, though the manner of distribution from there is undocumented. The Egyptians and Moors of the 12th and 13th centuries used the Arab word for the plant, suggesting that it had come from the east. The plant may thus have been taken across the Red Sea or the Bab-el-Mandeb strait to the Arabian Peninsula, rather than north across the Sahara. One of the earliest accounts is by a Spanish Moor who visited Egypt in 1216, who described the plant under cultivation by the locals who ate the tender, young pods with meal.

From Arabia, the plant spread around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and eastward. The lack of a word for okra in the ancient languages of India suggests that it arrived there in the Common Era. The plant was introduced to the Americas by ships plying the Atlantic slave trade by 1658, when its presence was recorded in Brazil. It was further documented in Suriname in 1686. Okra may have been introduced to the southeastern North America in the early 18th century and gradually spread. It was being grown as far north as Philadelphia by 1748, while Thomas Jefferson noted that it was well established in Virginia by 1781. It was commonplace throughout the southern United States by 1800 and the first mention of different cultivars was in 1806

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock. It has heart shaped leaves (one species is cultivated for its edible leaves), and large, yellow, hibiscus-like flowers.
The species is an annual or perennial, growing to 2 m tall. The leaves are 10–20 cm long and broad, palmately lobed with 5–7 lobes. The flowers are 4–8 cm diameter, with five white to yellow petals, often with a red or purple spot at the base of each petal. The fruit is a capsule up to 18 cm long, containing numerous seeds.

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It is a tall-growing, warm-season, annual vegetable from the same family as hollyhock, rose of Sharon and hibiscus. The pods, when cut, exude a mucilaginous juice that is used to thicken stews (gumbo), and have a flavor somewhat like a cross between asparagus and eggplant.

Abelmoschus esculentus is among the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetable species in the world. It will tolerate poor soils with heavy clay and intermittent moisture. Severe frost can damage the pods.
It is an annual crop in the southern United States.

Recommended Varieties :
Annie Oakley (hybrid; 52 days to harvest; compact plant; extra tender pods)

Dwarf Green Long Pod (52 days; ribbed pods)

Clemson Spineless (56 days; AAS winner)

In cultivation, the seeds are soaked overnight prior to planting to a depth of 1-2 cm. Germination occurs between six days (soaked seeds) and three weeks. Seedlings require ample water. The seed pods rapidly become fibrous and woody and must be harvested within a week of the fruit being pollinated to be edible.

The products of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic “goo” when the seed pods are cooked. In order to avoid this effect, okra pods are often stir fried, so the moisture is cooked away, or paired with slightly acidic ingredients, such as citrus or tomatoes. The cooked leaves are also a powerful soup thickener.

Based on the rising experiences with its country cousin, kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), okra could, at least in principle, have a future producing yet more things that are strange for a vegetable crop, including:

*Construction materials: Kenaf-blend panels are said to perform better than the present particleboard.

*Handicrafts: Kenaf fiber makes excellent mats, hats, baskets, and more.

*Forage: Chopping up the whole kenaf plant and feeding it to animals has proven successful.

*Fuel: Kenaf roots and stems burn fiercely.

Abelmoschus esculentus is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous fruits or pods containing round, white seeds. The fruits are harvested when immature and eaten as a vegetable.

The immature pods are used for soups, canning and stews or as a fried or boiled vegetable. The hibiscus like flowers and upright plant (3 to 6 feet or more in height) have ornamental value for backyard gardens.

A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known vegetable has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.

In Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Yemen, and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean, okra is widely used in a thick stew made with vegetables and meat. In Indian cooking, it is sauteed or added to gravy-based preparations and is very popular in South India. In Caribbean islands okra is cooked up and eaten as soup, often with fish. In Haiti, it is cooked with rice and maize; it is also used as a sauce for meat. It became a popular vegetable in Japanese cuisine toward the end of the 20th century, served with soy sauce and katsuobushi or as tempura. It is used as a thickening agent in gumbo. Breaded, deep fried okra is served in the southern United States. The immature pods may also be pickled.

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Okra leaves may be cooked in a similar manner as the greens of beets or dandelions. The leaves are also eaten raw in salads. Okra seeds may be roasted and ground to form a non-caffeinated substitute for coffee. As imports were disrupted by the American Civil War in 1861, the Austin State Gazette noted, “An acre of okra will produce seed enough to furnish a plantation of fifty negroes with coffee in every way equal to that imported from Rio.

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Okra forms part of several regional “signature” dishes. Frango com quiabo (chicken with okra) is a Brazilian dish that is especially famous in the region of Minas Gerais. Gumbo, a hearty stew whose key ingredient is okra, is found throughout the Gulf Coast of the United States and in the South Carolina Lowcountry. The word “gumbo” is based on the Central Bantu word for okra, “kigombo”, via the Caribbean Spanish “guingambó” or “quimbombó”. It is also an expected ingredient in callaloo, a Caribbean dish and the national dish of Trinidad & Tobago. Okra is also enjoyed in Nigeria where okra soup (Draw soup) is a special delicacy with Garri(eba) or akpu.

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In Vietnam, okra is the important ingredient in the dish canh chua.

Mature okra is used to make rope and paper! (Avoid those old woody pods!).

Medicinal Uses:
Okra is a good source of vitamin C and A, also B complex vitamins, iron and calcium. It is low in calories, a good source of dietary fiber, and is fat-free.

Okra oil is a pressed seed oil, extracted from the seeds of the okra. The greenish yellow edible oil has a pleasant taste and odor, and is high in unsaturated fats such as oleic acid and linoleic acid. The oil content of the seed is quite high at about 40%. Oil yields from okra crops are also high. At 794 kg/ha, the yield was exceeded only by that of sunflower oil in one trial.

Unspecified parts of the plant reportedly possess diuretic properties.

Contains male contraceptive gossypol.

According to Sylvia W. Zook, Ph.D. (nutritionist) Okra has several benefits.

1. The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilize blood sugar by curbing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.

2. Okra’s mucilage binds cholesterol and bile acid carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver.

3. Okra helps lubricate the large intestines due to its bulk laxative qualities. The okra fiber absorbs water and ensures bulk in stools. This helps prevent and improve constipation. Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra’s mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic. Okra binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids). These, if not evacuated, will cause numerous health problems. Okra also assures easy passage out of waste from the body. Okra is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming, has no adverse side effects, is full of nutrients, and is economically within reach of most unlike the OTC drugs.

4. Okra fiber is excellent for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics). This contributes to the health of the intestinal tract.

5. Okra is a supreme vegetable for those feeling weak, exhausted, and suffering from depression.

6. Okra is used for healing ulcers and to keep joints limber. It helps to neutralize acids, being very alkaline, and provides a temporary protective coating for the digestive tract.

7. Okra treats lung inflammation, sore throat, and irritable bowel.

8. In India, okra has been used successfully in experimental blood plasma replacements.

To retain most of okra’s nutrients and self-digesting enzymes, it should be cooked as little as possible, e.g. with low heat or lightly steamed. Some eat it raw.

Specific Ailments:-

Acid Reflux and Constipation
A person, suffering from constipation for the past 20 years and recently from acid reflux, started eating 6 pieces of Okra. Since then, has not taken any other medication. Now, his blood sugar has dropped from 135 to 98 and his cholesterol and acid reflux are also under control.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This anti-inflammatory activity may curtail the development of asthma symptoms. A large preliminary study has shown that young children with asthma experience significantly less wheezing if they eat a diet high in fruits rich in vitamin C. 1/2 cup of cooked Okra contains over 13 mg of vitamin C.

Diets high in insoluble fiber, such as those containing okra, are associated with protection against heart disease in both men and women.

The insoluble fiber found in Okra helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy, decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colo-rectal cancer.

Capillary fragility
Eating plenty of flavonoid and vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables such as okra helps to support the structure of capillaries.

1/2 cup of cooked okra contains 460 IU of vitamin A. Some studies have reported that eating more foods rich in beta-carotene or vitamin A was associated with a lower risk of cataracts.

A study (JAMA July 23, 2003) showed that consuming a “dietary portfolio” of vegetarian foods lowered cholesterol nearly as well as the prescription drug lovastatin (Mevacor). The diet was rich in soluble fiber from oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant and okra. It used soy substitutes instead of meat and milk and included almonds and cholesterol-lowering margarine (such as Take Control) every day.

Depression and Lack of Energy
Okra is a supreme vegetable for those feeling weak, exhausted, and suffering from depression.

High homocysteine
A controlled trial showed that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables containing folic acid, beta-carotene, and vitamin C effectively lowered homocysteine levels. Healthy people were assigned to either a diet containing a pound of fruits and vegetables per day, or to a diet containing 3 1/2 ounces (99g) of fruits and vegetables per day. After four weeks, those eating the higher amount of fruits and vegetables had an 11 percent lower homocysteine level compared to those eating the lower amount of fruits and vegetables. Okra is a storehouse of vitamins and folic acid.

Multiple sclerosis (MS)
In one survey, researchers gathered information from nearly 400 people (half with MS) over three years. They found that consumption of vegetable protein, fruit juice, and foods rich in vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and potassium correlated with a decreased MS risk.

Click & read……..>To deliver drugs, try veggies

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.

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.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.



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