When to Pick Okra
Last updated: 03/19/21
The Okra, which is also known as “lady’s finger,” is a green flowering plant with edible seed pods. It has long been a favorite of health-conscious people due to its high dietary fiber content and low calories.
Okra plant thrives in warm climates. Here in the South, it is battered and fried to serve with traditional Southern cooking. Yummy!
Although technically a fruit, it is often prepared as vegetables and very popular in South Asia and Africa.
These plants can quickly grow in our vegetable garden and look amazing, especially when the beautiful Okra flowers start to bloom.
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When is Okra Ripe?
The Okra plant is usually ready for harvesting around 60 days after planting. Okra pods are ready for picking two to five days after their flowers bloom, depending on the varieties of Okra.
Planting and the Growing Cycle of Okra
The Okra plant is a warm-weather crop that thrives in full sunlight and fertile loam soil. It is recommended to plant Okra in the early spring and around June.
Make sure that when seeding Okra, wait until the ground has warmed up to 60 to 75 degrees for best results.
The Okra seeds should be planted in moist soil at least 1/2 to 1 inch deep and placed 12 to 18 inches apart in a row. It needs at least one inch of water a week to keep the quality of Okra.
Growth would initially be slow but would speed up once it’s warmed up in the heat of summer.
It will rapidly increase the size of the Okra leaves and grow 4-6 feet tall in warm climates, especially during hot summer months.
How to Identify a Ripe Okra
It is essential to harvest Okra when it’s ripe and avoid waiting too long because it can become very tough and fibrous. It is usually ready a few two to five days after the flowers bloom.
Ripe Okra pods will be around 2 to 3 inches long with a vibrant green or purple color, depending on the Okra varieties.
Mature Okra pods that are larger and have a pale color are more fibrous and are not anymore suitable for cooking and consumption.
Make sure to check ripe Okra pods crop at least every 1 to 2 days because they can grow very fast.
Harvesting Okra Tips
Okra has a velvety texture due to the hairs on Okra. Don’t forget to wear gloves, especially if you are harvesting the spineless variety, since they can have fine protrusions called setulose growth in their stems, leaves, and pods.
Gloves can also prevent skin irritation and softening before use.
Okra roots are fragile, so it’s better to snap rather than pull the pods so you do not affect the roots. It is also advisable to remove large okra leaves, especially the ones that cover the pods.
This exposes the pods to more sunlight which means a bountiful okra harvest. Choose Okra pods that are only 2-3 inches; bigger pods are already hard, chewy, and too fibrous to eat.
One advantage of the Okra plants is the more you pick, the more yields of Okra it will produce. Some variety of Okra can grow up to 6 feet and would need a ladder.
To avoid this, you can cut the upper third of the plant in late summer. Don’t worry; they will still produce many pods in their lower portions.
How to Harvest Okara
The Okra plant can produce fresh Okra for up to 12 weeks with proper watering and care. The more you harvest, the more Okra pods it will grow.
Make certain you do not let the pods mature because they will stop producing flowers and new pods. Okra is best consumed just after harvest while it is still fresh.
Here are the steps in harvesting Okra:
1. Look for Okra pods that are 2 – 3 inches long with a bright green or purple color.
2. When you harvest Okra wear long sleeves and gloves to protect yourself from the time spines or stiff hairs that are found on some Okra varieties. These spines might cause skin irritations.
3. Cut the stem above the cap using a sharp knife or a pair of pruning scissors. It should easily cut, if it is too hard, it means the pod is too old and cannot be used anymore.
4. Do not pull the pods because you might damage the roots of the Okra plant.
5. Okra is best consumed right after harvest. But you can store them in perforated plastic bags and placed them in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper section.
6. Pick the pods every day since they bloom new flowers and grow pods every other day.
7. You can also leave some pods to fully mature and dry in a few selected plants. You can use the mature Okra seeds for the next planting season.
8. Disposed of pods that are bruised, discolored, limp or have cuts and spots.
Okra Storage Tips
One significant advantage of planting Okra is that you are always assured of a bumper crop. They are now to produce multiple pods, mainly if you harvest every day.
If you cut a pod, a new flower will bloom and grow into new pods in a few days.
Normally Okra’s are best consumed after picking, but with a lot of excess pods, what do you do with your Okra treasure? Here are a few tips on how to properly store and preserved them.
Okras can quickly spoil so it’s better if you can store your freshly picked okra by refrigerating, freezing, canning, or pickling them.
Ensure you washed your hands before handling fresh vegetables. Okra pods need to be placed in a paper bag or wrapped loosely in a perforated plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
They must be placed unwashed because wet pods can mold quickly and become too slimy.
Washed the pods only when you’re ready to use them. They can just be placed in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or until the tips of the pods turn dark.
To avoid contamination, Keep it away from raw meats. Disposed pods immediately if they have deteriorated and turned dark.
Fresh okras have a limited storage life and need to be processed for long-term storage. A frozen Okra that is prepared and frozen correctly can last for a few months.
But it has to be done immediately after harvest for the best results.
Before freezing fresh Okra should be trimmed of its stems but with whole caps. It should be blanch in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the pods’ size.
You have to use one gallon of water for every pound of Okra.
Place the Okra on a strainer or blanching basket and then close the lid of the blancher. Cool and drain immediately and placed on paper freezer wrap or zip-close freezer bags.
You can set the pods into the freezer whole or sliced them diagonally.
Another effective way of storing and preserving the Okra is canning, which is keeping food by processing and sealing them in airtight containers such as jars.
Before canning, makes sure to choose tender pods, then wash and trim both ends.
You can place the whole pod or cut it into one-inch slices the boil in a saucepan for 2 minutes. Drain the water and then put the Okra pods into a hot jar, then add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt.
Fill the jars and the seal properly for processing.
The jars are usually processed using a weighted gauge or dial-gauge pressure canner. Processing time will take around 25-40 minutes.
Let the jars rest for about 24 hours and then wash, label, and place the date. You have to make sure the jars are properly sealed before storing them.
If they are not sealed you have to process them again.
Aside from its health benefits, Okra is also delicious to eat. One of my favorite Okra recipes is the cornmeal-battered fried okra and gumbo stew, thickened using Okra.
It also tastes good when it’s grilled or roasted. The Okra is an essential vegetable that is healthy, cheap, and easy to produce.
How big should Okra be before you pick it?
The Okra should at least be 2 to 3 inches big before you pick them. Bigger Okras can become tough, fibrous, and not fit for eating.
How long can you harvest okra?
Okra plants can produce pos for 10-12 weeks. Make sure to harvest as often as possible to maximize your crop because they can have new pods 2-3 days after picking them.