Today, for most summer residents, garden plots have ceased to be a garden for growing vegetables and root crops. A modern dacha is a place to relax, spend leisure time, do what you love. Many lovers who are interested in exotic plants try to grow various unusual flowers, medicinal, spicy plants. Such rare crops for Russians include edible abelmosh (or hibiscus) (Abelmoschus, Hibiscus, esculentus).

This is a botanical, scientific name. But this plant, whose flowers resemble mallow, has a few more names: okra, okra, gombo, ladies' fingers. By the way, there is an opinion that the last name was given to the plant by the famous Russian classic writer AP Chekhov, who grew it in his Melikhovo estate near Moscow.

Botanical description


This vegetable crop belongs to the mallow family. Its homeland is the tropical regions of Africa. Even today in the Antilles, it grows in the wild under natural conditions. But as a cultivated plant, okra is grown in America, Asia, Africa, and Southern Europe. In our country, at the moment, this is a rather exotic plant, but there are small plantations of it in the Stavropol and Krasnodar Territories, in the Volgograd Region.

Okra is a herbaceous annual heat-loving and drought-resistant plant. It has a very powerful root system, in wild varieties growing in nature, the tap root penetrates into the depth of the soil by 1-1.5 m.

There is a wide variety of cultivated species of edible hibiscus, the above-ground height of which varies from 30-40 cm (short, dwarf varieties) to 2 m (tall varieties). The thick stem at the base is covered with sparse but very stiff hairs. It branches and as a result the plant takes the form of a bush, consisting of 3-7 stems. As the stem grows, it may become woody, although in some varieties it remains green with pubescence along its entire length. It is this green okra that is grown in the south of our country.

The okra leaves also have pronounced pubescence. They are large 5-7 lobed heart-shaped or rounded plates, the color of which can be dark or light green. They are attached to the stem with long petioles.

Blooming abelmosh will become a bright decoration of the garden, vegetable garden. Its flowering period is very long. From the beginning of summer until the very end of autumn, more and more single buds appear in the axils of the leaves, opening with large funnel-shaped flowers. They have short, also pubescent pedicels and petals from pale lemon to beige, cream.

Varieties are self-pollinated and cross-pollinated. In any case, after pollination and wilting of the flower, a fruit is formed in its place - an elongated octagonal (pyramidal) multi-seeded box with a pointed end, outwardly resembling pepper pods. The fruits, as well as the rest of the plant, are covered with fine hairs. Rounded or elongated on small stalks, they together reach up from the leaf axils. In some varieties, the length of the box can reach 25 cm, although the standard size does not exceed 10 cm.

On a transverse section, the fruits have a beautiful star-shaped shape. They are densely packed with fast-maturing seeds. It takes only 4-5 days and they become tasteless, fibrous. In fresh, frozen or canned form, okra can increasingly be seen on supermarket shelves and markets.

Useful properties of okra

Edible hibiscus fruits, original in their form, also have a rich chemical composition. They contain a large amount of protein, vitamins C and B, pectin, organic acids, mineral salts, carbohydrates, carotene, mucous substances. Okra seeds contain more than 20% oil, similar in composition and taste to olive oil.

Fruits, as well as other parts of the plant, are practically not used in folk and official medicine. However, the vegetable is used in the cuisines of various peoples of the world and dishes with it are often part of various diets. They are recommended for nutrition of people suffering from diseases such as:

  • gastritis, gastric ulcer, other diseases of the gastrointestinal tract;
  • diabetes mellitus, as a means of regulating blood sugar levels;
  • asthma, colds, accompanied by bouts of severe coughing;
  • atherosclerosis.

Dishes with okra are recommended for pregnant women, especially in the first trimester. This is an excellent tool for weight loss, recovery after heavy surgical interventions, after exhaustion. The vegetable strengthens the walls of capillaries, cleanses the body of cholesterol, helps with constipation, and reduces the risk of cataracts. According to data obtained in the course of scientific research, it prevents the occurrence of rectal cancer, helps in solving problems associated with potency.

Growing okra

Despite its ancient origin, okra is rarely grown in our country, although some sources claim that even 100 years ago it grew in every garden. Today, most of the fruits of edible hibiscus on the world market are supplied by India, almost 70% of the total world production.

If for the inhabitants of central Russia, okra is an exotic plant that can be grown in film greenhouses, seedling greenhouses, then in the south it can also grow in open ground. Okra is often compared to eggplant, because the care of these plants is almost the same.

Planting seeds

In the southern regions, where the earth warms up quickly enough, seeds can be sown directly into the soil. 60-70 cm are left between the rows, in a row the holes are made 4 cm deep at a distance of 30-35 cm, dropping 2 seeds into each at once. After the emergence of seedlings, this happens after 10-14 days, the weaker sprout is carefully pinched without pulling out or weeding it out so as not to damage the roots of the remaining seedling. For the same reason, in order to avoid damage to the root system, when growing by seedling, 2 seeds are planted in each germination container (peat pot), one of which is then also carefully pinched.

Seedlings are planted in the soil at the age of 40 days directly in pots. For active growth, the plant needs a temperature of at least 15-20ºС. If it is still cool outside, then a protective film can be pulled over the bed. By this time, the seedling reaches a height of 10-15 cm. When planting, humus and mineral fertilizers are added to each hole, which contributes to their rapid rooting.

Plant care

The rules for caring for seedlings and adult plants do not depend on the method of growing seedlings. The main activities are timely watering, loosening the soil, removing weeds and applying fertilizers, organic and potassium-phosphorus. Over time, the bushes grow and block the access of the sun to the soil. The soil is kept constantly moist and weeds stop growing. The number of waterings is reduced, increasing their abundance.

Experts recommend to carry out the formation of a bush. You can do this in two ways:

  • break out stepchildren that appear on the stem, they “take away” nutrients and moisture from the main shoot, thereby inhibiting its growth, and few fruits appear on them;
  • shorten (pinch) the top of the main shoot, stimulating the growth of side shoots on which fruits will form.

Which method more effectively leads to an increase in the yield of the bush can be determined empirically.


Abelmosh can be affected by all those fungal diseases that are characteristic of mallow plants. So that seedlings, adult plants are not exposed to them, they are soaked in a solution of some antimicrobial drug before planting the seeds. The soil is watered with the same solution, into which seeds are then sown, seedlings are planted. Sick plants, as well as the soil around them and the nearest bushes, are sprayed with special means. With a strong defeat, they are removed from the garden, and then burned.

  • Black leg is a disease that affects seedlings as a result of excessive waterlogging. This problem can be avoided by more careful observance of irrigation regimes, timely ventilation of the greenhouse.
  • Rust - it is characterized by the appearance of yellow spots on the leaves, buds. Brown tubercles are visible on the underside of the leaves - clusters of spores. Plants affected by rust die.
  • Powdery mildew - manifests itself in the form of a whitish coating on the leaves. The growth and development of the plant slows down. Affected leaves are removed from the bush and burned.

When growing okra, try to follow the following agrotechnical rules:

  • observe crop rotation, okra bushes grow best in those areas where cucumbers were grown last year;
  • do not thicken the planting so that the soil under the bushes is well ventilated;
  • for the same purpose, the leaves touching the surface of the earth are carefully removed;
  • weed out weeds;
  • feed in a timely manner.

Provoke the defeat of edible hibiscus bushes with fungal diseases can be a lack of potassium-phosphorus fertilizers and an excess of nitrogen.


Most often, aphids, thrips, cabbage scoops settle on okra. The first two types of pests feed on the sap of the plant, which leads to a delay in its growth, development, weakening of flowering and fruiting. In addition, thrips leave behind holes on the leaves, inside of which fungal spores can get. The bollworm is a caterpillar that feeds on the fruits and leaves of not only okra, but also other vegetables growing nearby.

To get rid of insects and for preventive purposes, it is necessary to spray plantings with pesticides. Modern preparations have low toxicity and are not dangerous for the environment. Some of them decompose within 2-3 days, after which the fruits can already be used for cooking.


2-2.5 months after planting, the first flowers appear on the bushes, and after a week the gardener can harvest the first crop and enjoy exotic vegetables. Depending on the area of ​​cultivation, it is possible to collect fruits from abelmosh bushes until the deepest autumn. The growth of bolls slows down only when the ambient temperature drops. Fruit color can be dark, light green, or even red. If you plan to re-grow okra, then the very first pods are best left until fully ripe, so that later you can use the seeds as planting material.


Since all parts of the plant have pubescence in the form of small and stiff hairs that cause irritation when in contact with the skin, not only harvesting, but also other care procedures, must be carried out with gloves, and the pods should be cut from the plants with a sharp pruner.

Harvesting should be done systematically and regularly. If you are 2-3 days late in harvesting, you risk losing part of the crop. The boxes will harden and become inedible. In addition, the constant collection of pods leads to the formation of new buds, further active flowering, the appearance of fruits, and an increase in yield. In the southern regions, the pods are harvested every other day, in the central regions of our country - after 4-5 days. Harvested vegetables should be used within the next 2-3 days. You can prolong the freshness of the pods by carefully wrapping them in plastic wrap and placing them in the vegetable section of the refrigerator. For longer storage, they are subjected to quick freezing, drying or canning.

At the end of the growing season, in late autumn, some gardeners harvest the roots of the plant. They are dug up, washed and dried, for the subsequent preparation of decoctions, infusions, which are then used as medicines.

Use in cooking

Nutritious exotic vegetable tastes like young zucchini or asparagus beans. It can be eaten fresh, fried, stewed, baked, pickled, added to side dishes, salads, soups, stuffed or used as an independent dish. Okra goes well with fish, meat, ham, hot red peppers, onions, tomatoes. In India, abelmosh fruit is added to curry sauce.

Depending on the variety, the fruits (pods) can be:

  • smooth, almost varnished;
  • or covered with stiff hairs, the same as the rest of the plant.

Such "fluffy" fruits are pre-treated before cooking. In some cases, it may be sufficient to wipe the skin with a soft cloth to remove the hairs and cut off the stalk along with the adjacent sepals.

In other varieties, the skin of the pods itself is rather rough and tough. So that it does not spoil the dish, it must be carefully removed. This is not difficult to do if you first scald the fruits with boiling water. The process of frying, boiling or stewing does not take much time. It takes only a few minutes to prepare the dish. At the same time, the beneficial substances contained in fresh fruits do not have time to collapse.

The dark green, grey-brown, or even black grains of okra resemble peas in appearance. Some housewives prepare an analogue of green peas from young seeds, although the taste of the dish is somewhat different from the original. Ripened seeds are also used. After roasting and grinding, they are used to prepare a tonic drink - a coffee substitute. It does have a chocolate-coffee flavor, but it doesn't contain caffeine. The indigenous people of Africa call it Coffee Gombo.


Okra fruits cannot cause any harm to the body, even if consumed daily and in large enough quantities. The only contraindication to their use is individual intolerance, which can lead to an allergic reaction.

Things to know (Q&A)

What should not be planted next to okra?

Don't plant them too close, as cucumbers vines spread and also need a large amount of sun to ripen. Pepper plants will repel cabbage worms, which can be a destructive nuisance to okra plant

What is a companion plant for okra?

Plants like chamomile, wormwood, chives, summer savory, coriander, tansy, yarrow, dill, mint, thyme, hyssop, chervil, geranium, rue, sage, and oregano are all very beneficial companion plants to okra. These plants repel insect pests (like cabbage moths and spider mites) and attract beneficial insects and pollinator

Is ornamental okra edible?

Just the sight of its beautiful blooms should be a clue to the decorative possibilities of this vegetable. Okra is not a favorite deer-veggie, but they will eat it if that is all there is . Some okras have other ornamental attributes.

Do okra plants spread?

It's a warm season vegetable that will flourish. In addition to being simple to grow, okra doesn't take up a lot of room in the garden. It grows tall, up to 5 – 6 feet, but it doesn't spread out . Therefore, because it's tall, lean and grows upward, you can maximize the space you hav

Can you plant okra next to tomatoes?

Another plant you can grow alongside okra is tomatoes . When companion planted, tomatoes act as a trap crop, luring stink bugs away from okra plants. Beyond fruits and vegetables to pair with okra plants, flowers can be a great option to increase pollination in the area.

Can okra and peppers be planted together?

Peppers. Cabbage worms hate pepper plants, which is good news for okra . Those worms may be named for cabbage, but they love okra, too, and will destroy a crop. Put a few pepper plants nearby and those pesky worms will stay awa

What should not be planted near?

Other commonly believed plant incompatibilities include the following plants to avoid near one another:

  • Mint and onions where asparagus is growing.
  • Pole beans and mustard near beets.
  • Anise and dill neighboring carrots.
  • Cucumber, pumpkin, radish, sunflower, squash, or tomatoes close to potato hills.

Can you plant beans and okra together?

Underplanting with beans makes it harder for these pesky pests to locate okra plants to feed on . Grow okra with fragrant herbs like basil or cilantro (coriander) to discourage pests. When these herbs bloom, their flowers may attract beneficial insects like pollinators and predator

Can I plant marigolds with okra?

A: Yes! In fact, marigolds will help deter detrimental nematodes that can block nutrient absorption in your okra crop. Okra and marigolds love each other. Give them plenty of sun, and space adequatel

Is all of the okra plant edible?

If you dig “nose-to-tail” veggie eating, this vegetable is for you: the leaves, flowers and seeds are also edible . Young okra greens can be cooked like spinach or beet greens (or eaten raw) and the seeds can even be ground and used as a coffee substitute.

Can you eat ornamental vegetables?

Is It Edible? Apart from their looks, a key difference between this and the leafy greens you buy at the grocery store is that this variety isn't grown for flavor. As a result, the ornamental stuff is much less flavorful than the “edible” culinary leafy greens. However, the leaves of these varieties are safe to eat

Can you eat wild okra?

As mentioned, the blooms are edible, as well as are the seeds, which can be ground and used as a coffee substitute or pressed for oil . The flavor of the leaves is reportedly quite mild, but a little grassy, thus it works well with bold flavors such as garlic, onion, and pepper

Can you eat the flower of the okra plant?

Okra flowers are very edible and nice to add to salads just remember the flowers turn into the okra so don't pick them al

Can okra be planted close together?

When you plant okra for growing sprouts, you can plant it closer together . If you plant your okra to harvest the pods, though, you need to plant it farther apart. The plants grow between 6 to 8 feet tall, so they need plenty room to get sunlight, develop their roots, and absorb enough water.

Does okra need a lot of space?

Plant okra seeds about 1/2 to 1 inch deep and 12 to 18 inches apart in a row. You can soak the seeds overnight in tepid water to help speed up germination. If you are planting okra transplants, be sure to space them 1 to 2 feet apart to give them ample room to grow .

How big do okra plants get?

three to six feet tall

Okra can grow from three to six feet tall . Choose a garden spot where its shade will not harm other sun loving plants. Sow the seeds one inch deep in rows that are three feet apart. The seeds generally germinate in two to 12 days.

Are okra plants climbers?

Climbing okra is a vigorous vine that uses its long tendrils to cling to supporting structures such as trellises and fences. Depending on soil quality and related growing conditions, this plant's runners can reach 6′ to 20′ in length, quickly covering its support with a lush canopy of large, dark green leaves.