Image by Joi Ito
By Kathleen Mierzejewski
Growing okra is a pretty simple garden task. They mature quickly and especially if you have a summer of hot weather which they prefer. Harvesting okra can be tricky, however, because you have to get to them before the pods become tough.
It takes only about four days from the time of flowering to the time to pick okra. You will need to harvest okra every other day until there are no more in order to keep them producing. Harvesting okra is something you can do when you are out also harvesting your green and wax beans. Then it just becomes habit to go out and harvest okra as it is ready.
When is Okra Ready?
Picking okra should be done when they are two to three inches long. If you leave them too long they get hard and woody. Once you are done picking okra, you will want to store them in plastic bags in your refrigerator. They will last about a week or so. You can freeze it if you have too much to save in the refrigerator. Remember that harvesting okra needs to be done often.
How To Pick Okra
Picking okra is simple. You just need to test the larger pods by cutting them open with a sharp knife. If they are too difficult to cut, then you missed the opportunity to harvest okra that day. Remove these pods as they are too old. They will rob the plant of the nutrients it needs to produce younger pods. If the pods are still tender, use a sharp knife to cut the stem cleanly right below the okra pod.
Because okra is self-pollinating, you can save some of the pods for seeds for the following year. This will make for a great crop the second time around. Instead of harvesting okra, if you want to save some pods for seed leave them on the plant and harvest okra when they become fully mature and almost dry. Remember not to do this if you still plan on harvesting okra to eat. Leaving the pods on the plant to mature like this slows down the development of new pods.