Okra does very well in Aquaponic systems and far outproduces those plants that are soil bound. If you love Okra, you will be happy you put it in your system.
Okra is known in many English-speaking countries as lady’s fingers or gumbo and is a flowering plant in the mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. Originating in Africa, the plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world.
Structure and physiology The species is an annual or perennial, growing to 2 m tall. It is related to such species as cotton, cocoa, and hibiscus. The leaves are 6 – 8 inches long and broad, palmately lobed with 5 to 7 lobes. The flowers are 2 inches in 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 6 to 9 inches long, containing numerous seeds.
Okra is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous fruits or pods containing round, white seeds. It is among the most heat and drought tolerant vegetable species in the world, but severe frost can damage the pods, but it will tolerate poor soils with heavy clay and intermittent moisture.
In cultivation, the seeds are soaked overnight prior to planting to a depth of 1/2 inch. 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 fruits are harvested when immature and eaten as a vegetable.
The products of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic “goo” or slime when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains a usable form of soluble fiber. While many people enjoy okra cooked this way, others prefer to minimize sliminess; keeping the pods intact and cooking quickly help to achieve this. To avoid sliminess, okra pods are often briefly stir-fried or cooked with acidic ingredients such as citrus, tomatoes, or vinegar. A few drops of lemon juice will usually suffice. Alternatively, the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time, so that the mucilage dissolves, as in gumbo. The cooked leaves can also be used as a powerful soup thickener. The immature pods may also be pickled.
Okra leaves may be cooked in a similar way to the greens of beets or dandelions. The leaves are also eaten raw in salads. Okra seeds may be roasted and ground to form a caffeinate-free substitute for coffee. When importation of coffee was 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 de Janeiro.
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 can be quite high at about 40%. Oil yields from okra crops are also high. At 794 kg/ha, the yield is exceeded only by that of sunflower oil in one trial.