Mumbo Gumbo

People can have strong opinions about okra; they often love it or hate it. 

I happen to love the plant. It's tropical grace and beautiful mallow flowers swaying in the breeze, but have yet to be sold on the fruit.  This year I am determined to find a recipe that highlights the culinary beauty of okra, and in my pursuit, rustled up a sure fire list of southern ‘fried’ cookbooks to ponder as the okra sets on the stalks.

In the garden, okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) really blooms! This and other self-pollinating plants contain both the male and female parts necessary to produce fruit within the same ‘perfect’ flower. These plants offer beginning seed savers a good chance at successful seed saving. Although okra flowers are self-fertile, they are also very attractive to pollinators, and will cross with members of the same species.  If a gardener grows two varieties of okra at the same time, they will need to place bags over, and mark, the unopened blooms of the flower that they want to save seed from. Cross pollination does not affect this season’s fruit, but will impact next season’s crops.

We suggest that, in an urban setting, you only grow one variety of any plant that you want to save seed from, to help ensure that the saved seed will grow the same quality and variety of plant that came from the seed you planted. The seed library often carries many varieties of this warm season vegetable.

Now get out there and grow some gumbo!

For okra recipe ideas, check out these cookbooks.

For additional seed saving resources, check these out.