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chokecherry Foraging

Chokecherry – Prunus Virginiana

Chokecherry foraging was a staple for numerous Native American tribes across the North American continent, especially those who lived on the plains and prairies. The Cheyenne used the limbs to make arrow shafts and bows. The Crows used it for tipi stakes and pins. Early trappers washed their steel traps in water boiled with the bark to remove the scent.

The name chokecherry came from the bitter and astringent taste of the fruit.

In their journals, Lewis and Clark recorded that while camped on the upper Missouri River Captain Lewis became ill with abdominal cramps and fever. He made a tea from chokecherry twigs and was well the next day.

The leaves, bark, stem, and seed pit of chokecherry are all toxic due to production of hydrocyanic acid.
The leaves of the chokecherry serve as food for caterpillars and the tree can be a host for the tent caterpillar.

Description

The chokecherry may reach a height of over 30 feet. Its crown is irregular and may spread between 10 to 20 feet. The stems are numerous and slender. The chokecherry’s leaves are dark green and glossy above and paler below. They are alternate on the stem shaped oval to broadly elliptic in shape and are 1” – 4” long and ¾” – 2” wide. The leaf edges are toothed with closely-spaced sharp teeth pointing outward forming a serrated edge. They turn yellow in autumn.

The bark of young trees may vary from gray to a reddish brown. As it ages the bark turns darker, into brownish-black and becomes noticeably furrowed. The bark is distinctly marked by horizontal rows of raised air pores. With maturation the lenticels develop into shallow grooves.
It has perfect flowers which are aromatic and arranged in cylindrical racemes 3 to 6 inches long. The racemes always grow on the current year’s leafy twig growth. Individual flowers are perfect, 1/4 to 3/8 inch in diameter with 5 white petals. The flowers start appearing before the leaves are fully developed. Flowers may appear from April to July and fruits form a couple of months later.

Location: As can be seen on the map, the chokecherry is widespread across North America. Chokecherry is found in a large geographic area and it grows abundantly in many habitat types

Edible: The flesh of the fruit is edible. Also, jelly and jam can be made from the fruit. Native Americans would mash the fruits and seeds and use it to mix with meat and make pemmican.

Nutritional Value

The small berries are loaded with fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and several other vitamins and minerals. Naturally low in calories and high in anti-oxidant properties.

The berries are rich in quinic acid and work hard to prevent urinary tract infections. The berries are also rich in flavonoids, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanins that help fight against allergies and viruses.

Harvesting Chokecherries

Don’t be too anxious to harvest chokecherries, give them plenty of time to reach maturity so the flavor will be more on the sweet side and less on the tart side. Wait until late summer when the berries are at their darkest color to harvest them. When the berries start turning dark, a taste test done every couple of days will let you know when they are at their peak.

The small berries grow in clusters that hang down from a stem, so just snap off the entire stem at harvest time. The individual berries can be removed from the stems after you get the fruit home.

Chokecherry trees can be grown from seeds or cuttings.

Rinse the berries and allow them to air dry before storing them in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to a week. To remove the seeds and extract the juice, lightly steam the berries to soften them and strain them through a colander or cheesecloth. Fruit leather is made from the berry pulp after the berries have been steamed.

Grow Your Own

Chokecherry trees can be grown from seeds or cuttings. Seeds or seedlings can be purchased from most garden supply centers, or it’s easy to harvest and plant them yourself. To harvest seeds, wait until late fall when the chokecherries are at their ripest. Remove the pulp from the seeds and allow seeds to air dry for 24 hours. Plant seeds in a shallow hole, water and add a 2-inch layer of fallen leaves on top of the soil.

If you want to save the harvested seeds from fall for planting in the spring, place the air-dried seeds in moist sand in a cool location for 60-90 days, then plant outdoors.

To grow your own chokecherry tree from a cutting, cut a length of soft wood from the tree in the summer when the plant is actively growing. Dip the cut end into rooting hormone and plant directly into outdoor soil that has been amended with compost. Keep the soil moist and the cutting will soon develop a new root system and begin to actively produce new growth.

Notes Of Interest

* Chokecherries are valuable plants for native bees. The long-lasting blooms are rich in pollen and keep bees well-fed for several months during the early summer.
* The berries can be poisonous to humans if they are consumed in large quantities.
* Chokecherries have a single seed in each berry – its poisonous look-alike, the Buckthorn, contains several small seeds inside each berry.
* The seeds and the leaves of the chokecherry shrub contain cyanide. The amount is not enough to harm a human unless ingested in large quantities.

Back to Edible Plants

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Hawthorn A Wild Edible

Hawthorn A Wild Edible You Can Forage

Back to Edible Plants

Hawthorn (Crataegus), also known as hawberry, quickthorn, whitethorn, and thornapple, is a member of the rose family and is a wild-growing plant that is used for food and medicine. Hawthorn a wild edible has all parts edible and foraging for hawthorn has become increasingly popular due to its versatile uses as food and herbal medicine. A quick search of the USDA Plant Database provides information for approximately 150 different species of hawthorns that range from shrubs to small trees that can reach upwards of 30 feet. Even more interesting, I have read there are well over 200 different types of hawthorns one of which can be found somewhere in North America. If you are interested in foraging, get to know the types of hawthorns that grow in your area.

Appearance

hawthorn a wild edible picture USDA plant database copy write free

Hawthorn is a term that encompasses multiple species. In general, they are shrubs to small trees growing to around 20 ft plus. As member of the rose family, the branches are covered with thorns. The branches develop deep fissures that reveal an orange interior under the gray-brown exterior. The berries look much like rose hips – red and round – but can be yellow, orange, blue, or black.

The plant leaves are wedge-shaped and have 5-7 lobes with fine teeth at the tip on some species while could be more “leaf like” with small serrations on the edges on others.

Hawthorns bloom in May and are covered with clusters of small white to red based flowers (depending on the specific species). The flowers give off a strong scent that is described in two very different ways – some say the blooms smell sweet and pleasant while other describe the scent as that of a rotting corpse. Both sides agree that the fragrance of a hawthorn tree in bloom is a strong scent that can be smelled from a distance.

Wild Growing Location

Hawthorn is native to Europe and can be found in Asia, Africa, Australia, and North America. The shrub grows wild along the edges of wooded areas and thickets and grows best in moist soil that is loose and rich with decomposed plant matter.

Hawthorn growing in the wild often create a natural living fence along the edge of a wooded area and is often planted as a living fence in large landscapes.

Flavor and Uses

Hawthorn a wild edible, its berries have a tart flavor while the plant leaves have a light floral flavor. The berries and leaves are used in the making of tea, wine, jelly, jam, ketchup, infused oil, and vinegar.

The young leaves and flowers are gathered in the spring and used in a fresh green salad. The leaves can be harvested anytime for making tea.

Hawthorn a Wild Edible Notes of Interest leaves and berries

The berries ripen in early fall and will be at their peak flavor after the first frost of fall. They can be harvested before frost but will have a tarter flavor.

The leaves, flowers, and berries are used to make tea for drinking or tinctures. The tea can also be used to add flavor to foods like rice or pasta by using it as a cooking liquid.

Nutritional Value

The edible plant parts are rich in vitamins B and C, fiber, and loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals (unstable molecules) in the body that are precursors to many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Hawthorn is also a powerful anti-inflammatory that helps reduce the amount of inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can lead to debilitating diseases like diabetes, cancer, and asthma.

Hawthorn extract (tincture) has been shown in studies to significantly reduce the amount of blood fat in the body. Lowering the blood fat reduces high cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The natural fiber content of the berries aid in digestion and help improve gut health. The berries keep food moving swiftly through the digestive process for better elimination. Hawthorn extract has been shown in studies to provide a protective coating on the lining of the stomach to help treat and/or prevent stomach ulcers.

Hawthorn extract is rich in polyphenols (micronutrients) that are beneficial for skin and hair. One study shows that hawthorn extract is good for stimulating hair growth because it increases the size and number of hair follicles.

Harvesting Hawthorn

To harvest the leaves and flowers, prune off some of the branches from the tree in spring when the shrub is in bloom. If you are on the side of describing the flowers as smelling bad, the smell will fade as the flowers dry and the dried flowers don’t taste as bad as they smell.

Place the small branches with flowers and leaves intact in a paper bag and hang the bag upside down in a warm location until they dry. The dried leaves and flowers will be easy to remove from the branches, just be careful of the thorns.

Harvest the berries by carefully picking them off the plant in late summer or fall. Place them in a single layer in a warm location to dry or use a dehydrator to dry.

Grow Your Own

Plant hawthorn seeds in late February. Mix compost and leaf mold into the soil, plant 2 seeds in a hole that is 2-inches deep, and water well. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.

You can start a new plant by taking a cutting from an older plant. Take a 10-inch cutting in spring, remove leaves, dip the cut end into rooting hormone and insert 2-inches deep into a container of potting soil. Place container in a shaded area and allow the roots to develop then transplant outdoors.

Hawthorn a Wild Edible Notes of Interest

* Hawthorn has long been used as a natural way to control high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, improve circulation, and increase blood flow to the heart. Hawthorn widens the blood vessels and increases the amount of blood that is pumped out of the heart during contractions.

* Hawthorn supplements typically include all parts of the plant. The leaves and flowers contain more antioxidants than the berries.

* Honey bees love the hawthorn shrub when it’s in full bloom. The abundant pollen produced by the flowers helps the bees create dark, nut-flavored honey known as ‘Hawthorn honey’.

*Tinctures and salves are also made from various parts of the hawthorn plant to treat skin disorders, like boils and open sores.

you want to be a beekeeper

You want to be a beekeeper

So you want to be a beekeeper, after all honey is healthy, bees are dying for all sorts of reasons and need a champion like you. There is a store right done the street that sells the equipment you will need and Facebook Marketplace has sellers that “can hook you up with bees”. The stars are aligned, everything you need is at hand, just set up the store bought hive, pick up the bees from Facebook guy and … free honey!! The ultimate impulse buy, 25,000 flying insects that can sting. If this is your game plan, you will probably do more harm than good. You may get your “free honey” after spending close to $500.00 for equipment and bees but without working the bees and caring for them you may create a parasite/pathogen vector that will infect not only other beekeepers’ bees but also wild bees and worse of all, your hive will probably die.

so you want to be a beekeeper - learn all about it
Queen supersedure cells to replace a failing queen

Ok, that’s about as negative as I can make it and that was close to my failure except I can add that I read books about beekeeping, went to seminars, asked questions at the bee store and knew the beekeeping buzz words. I got honey and my bees died. With that loss I jumped into what I missed. I joined a local bee club and spoke with an experienced beekeeper about helping me get better. With that conversation I found a mentor who became a friend.

The mentor, and a great one at that, was the key. One summer and autumn of helping him work bees and he coming to my apiary and instructing me on things to watch and present ideas of what to do in addition to what I was doing made all the difference. The biggest lesson learned was the dedication necessary to the bees. If you want to be a beekeeper, you cannot plop them down, look two times during the year and expect success. After setting up your hives comes the work (and dedication). You should try to open your hive at least once every other week. Know what you are looking at, learn to take time and know every once in a while you will get stung. You will need to take the time and check for small hive beetles, ants, wax moths and other not very nice insects. You will want to know how to check for varroa mites and make the time to do it. You will need to know how to use medications, when to use them and when not to use them. You will need to know how to set the hive (s) up for winter and how to open in the spring. I can go on with more, but you should get the picture now.

With all the work and dedication comes the good. 50 lbs. – 100 lbs. (4 to 9 gallons) of honey per year per hive if all goes well (year 1 expect very little). What we harvest we use – our kids take home a gallon or so each, neighbors and friends are spoiled. With the honey comes bees wax for soap, lip balm, candles, etc. I find joy in sitting and watching the bees doing what bees do. My flowers and vegetables get pollinated. It is amazing to witness a “super-organism” at work. A queen laying eggs, workers feeding larvae, bees hatching, a scout bee coming back to the hive to perform the “waggle dance” are the best shows in town to watch. You may open a hive and see queen cells – are they supersedure cells? Are they swarm cells? I find it very rewarding keeping bees and trying to do it well. So…you want to be a beekeeper…

Wild Purslane A Wild Edible

Wild Purslane A Wild Edible

Wild Purslane A Wild Edible
Finding wild purslane is easy, just look down

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), also known as Little Hogweed, Pusley, and wild portulaca, is an edible plant that grows wild in almost every climate and region of the world. Wild Purslane is a member of the Portulacaceae family with more than 120 different species and is native to Europe and Northern Asia. It was brought into North America by colonists and is now widespread throughout the United States.

Like the dandelion, it’s an invasive species that competes with native plants, but its invasive nature and nutritional value makes it an ideal plant to forage for use as a sustainable food source.

Back to Wild Edibles

Appearance

This is a creeping plant that stays low to the ground rarely reaching over 6-inches tall. All the creeping stems will develop from one central root. Purslane is succulent and has fleshy leaves and stems. The oval leaves grow out from the stem in a set of four and will be about the size of your thumbnail when mature. The leaves are bright green, have smooth edges, and are smooth to the touch. The stems have a reddish tinge of color.

The plant will produce purple or yellow flowers from mid-spring until late autumn.

Wild Growing Locations

This wild edible thrives in a wide variety of locations where it can grow undisturbed. The most common places to find wild purslane is along riverbanks, roadsides, vacant lots, open fields, and along the edge of a wooded area.

Flavor and Uses

The flavor of purslane is often described as a cross between a green apple and celery but with a bit more tart some compare it to watercress. The leaves can be eaten raw and are crunchy, or they can be boiled or steamed like any other leafy green vegetable.

The stems from young plants can be enjoyed raw in a salad. The stems of older plants might be a little tough and will need to be prepared like broccoli stems before eating.

Flower stalks and flowers are edible and have a flavor that is slightly sour and like salty vegetables.

Wild Purslane Nutritional Value

Purslane is a powerhouse of nutrients and is a must-have food source for the food forager, homesteader, or anyone else looking to increase their sustainable food source through foraging. This wild edible is a rich source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The plant also is rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E. It’s a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and several other micro-nutrients and minerals. The entire plant is naturally low in calories and sodium and will increase the nutritional value of any meal or snack.

Harvesting Purslane

Because of the plant’s rapid growth habit and invasive nature, pulling up a purslane patch will not be harmful to the environment. Even though the plant is invasive, it has naturalized to its environment and will re-grow from cuttings and seeds dropped from the plant. Additionally, birds and small animals that eat the plant help disperse the seeds. I find wild purslane growing in my vegetable garden every year.

The leaves and stems will be at their most tender flavor peak when the plant is young in the early spring. Harvest young plants when planning to eat them raw.

Grow Your Own

You don’t have to rely on foraging for purslane, it’s easy to plant and grow in a container garden or at the edge of the landscape. Remember, it’s an invasive plant and will need to be confined within a container or raised bed garden so it won’t overtake other garden plants. If you have a patch of vacant landscape where the plant can grow without interfering with other food plants, that will work very well.

Select a sunny location and sow seeds directly outdoors in spring as soon as the soil can be worked and when the danger of frost has passed. Cover the seeds with one-fourth inch of soil, gently tamp down, and water thoroughly. Don’t water again unless there is a prolonged period of drought. Don’t fertilize plants.

wild purslane is a great ground cover for the garden

Purslane can also be grown from cuttings quiet well. If you can cut stems close to the main stem with several sets of leaves that will be best. Cut the lower sets of leaves from the stem keeping at least two sets of leaves on the top of the stem. Stick the part of the stem stripped of leaves into a pot filled with rich moist potting mix. Keep the cuttings out of direct sun and the potting mix moist for several weeks

Poisonous Look-Alike

Spurges is a poisonous plant that looks like purslane but has one distinguishing difference – when the stem or leaves are broken it will ooze a sticky white substance. Spurges is also not a succulant so the leaves are thinner and the plant is hairy.

Broccoli Gardening

Broccoli Gardening

broccoli gardening Broccoli is a nutritious vegetable, high in dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals

Broccoli, Brassica oleracea var. Italica, belongs to the plant species Brassica oleracea, that also includes several other common cultivars including cabbage, Brussels sprout, kale, cauliflower, and collard greens. The short, thick-stemmed plant from the Brassicaceae family is native to eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. It’s a herbaceous annual plant grown for its edible flower heads. If you want to attempt broccoli gardening, you should know the plant grows to about 24 to 36 inches high with thick, branching leathery leaves, and dense clusters of flower heads, usually green in color. It’s a cool season vegetable that takes between 60 to 150 days for the heads to come to harvest, depending on the variety.

Types & Varieties of Broccoli

Broccoli is a nutritious vegetable, high in dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals. It’s an excellent source of potassium, folic acid, and Vitamins A, B and K. Though most superstores only sell a few standard types, there is a wide range of broccolis to grow and harvest for home gardeners.

Common Varieties of Broccoli:

BelstarThis hybrid variety produces 6-inch blue green heads that take about 65 days to reach maturity. Once the main crown is picked, the variety is also known for producing a series of side shoots for further harvests.

Blue Wind F1 – This is an extra early maturing variety, producing large dense heads that take about 60 days to mature. The side shoot production is also commendable.

Di Cicco – It’s an Italian heirloom variety that produces its initial crowns in as little as 50 days, followed by side shoots. The plants mature at different rates, making it an excellent choice for home gardeners, giving a consistent supply of broccolis to the kitchen.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli – With purple flower heads instead of the typical green broccolis, the variety is much sweeter than others. It matures slower than others and is typically planted as a biennial to harvest in the following spring. 

Broccoli yields 4 to 6 pounds from a 10-foot row. Space individual plants 18 to 24 inches apart, with a 3-feet spacing between rows and plan about 2 to 4 plants per person.

Temperature and Timing for Growing Broccoli

Broccoli is a cool-season crop that’s typically planted in late winters or early spring for harvesting in early summer. For broccoli gardening a second crop can be planted in late summers for a fall harvest. Broccolis grow best when the temperatures are between 40°F to 70°F. High temperatures negatively impact the development of the heads, so gardeners aim to bring it to harvest before the temperatures soar.

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Broccoli prefers full sun but if the temperatures are higher, partial shade may be better to prevent the plants from bolting.

Broccoli grow best in rich, fertile soil amended with plenty of organic matter and with a neutral soil pH.

How to Plant Broccoli

Broccoli gardening begins by starting the seeds indoors, 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. It can also be started by direct sowing in the garden, 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost. Work the soil with 2 to 4 inches of aged compost in early spring before sowing the seeds. When planting outdoors, sow the seeds ½ inches deep in soil and 3 inches apart.

Water the soil and maintain it consistently moist throughout the germination phase. Once the seedlings emerge and grow to a height of 2 to 3 inches, thin them to maintain an 18 to 24-inch spacing between the plants.

If started indoors, transplants can go into the garden after hardening off, once they are 4 to 6 weeks old. Plant the transplants 18 to 24 inches apart, setting them slightly deeper in the planting holes than they were in the containers. Water the transplants well just after planting.

Fertilize the transplants with a low-nitrogen formula 3 weeks after planting them in the garden. Provide 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week, maintaining consistent moisture for best development. Always water at the base and avoid getting the developing heads wet. Mulch around the plants to suppress weeds.

Harvest

Towards the end of a successful broccoli growing season, you’ll have plenty of beautiful flower heads to harvest. Here’s how to pick them:

  • Harvest the buds as soon as they’re the size of a large fist, while they’re firm and dense, just before flowering.
  • If you wait too long to harvest, the buds open and the quality of the heads fall. You can still eat them but the texture is tougher.
  • Cut the heads from the base with 4 inches of stalk attached.
  • Let the plant grow after harvesting the main head and side shoots will develop. The new flower heads will be smaller in size than the main head but taste just as good.

Storing

Broccoli stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Store unwashed broccoli loosely wrapped in damp paper towels in the fridge and consume them within the next few days. If you want to store it for longer, you can freeze it after blanching and use it for up to one year. 

Pests and Diseases

Pests

  • Aphids suck the plants’ sap, leaving curling and discolored leaves. Hose them off the plants with a strong jet of water. If the plants are severely infested, insecticidal soap or neem oil can help.
  • Cabbage worms feed on broccoli leaves, causing serious damage to the plants. If handpicking does not help, in the case of serious infestations, treating with Bacillus thuringiensis is typically effective.
  • Flea beetles leave small holes in the foliage, killing off the seedlings and reducing the yield for mature plants. White sticky traps can help capture the insects. Insecticides are also helpful if used early in the season.

Diseases

  • Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that appears as white patches with purple blotching on leaf surfaces. The thick powdery layer coats the leaves, causing them to eventually drop off the plant. If the disease persists, it spreads to the stem and head. Plant resistant varieties, rotate crops, keep the foliage dry and avoid using excessive nitrogen fertilizers to prevent the problem.

Applying all the information you’ve learned from this article, you’re ready to begin a successful and rewarding broccoli growing season.

Okra Gardening

Okra Gardening

Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus, is a herbaceous annual plant from the mallow family, Malvaceae, and is cultivated for its edible seed pods. It’s widely grown in most tropical regions of the world. Plants can grow up to 1.2 to 1.8 meters and typically survive only one growing season. It bears heart-shaped lobed leaves, and yellow flowers with a crimson center. You need to know that when okra gardening, this heat-loving vegetable crop grows through the warm season, coming to harvest by the end of summer. The fruit is picked and consumed while it’s young and unripe. Mature seed pods are tough for consumption.

Types & Varieties of Okra

Okra is rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fibers and low on calories, making it an excellent addition to your diet. Plenty of varieties are available, distinguished with their length of growing season, size of the plant and appearance and taste of the fruits. ‘Spineless’ varieties also exist that lack the tiny spines on the seed pods that irritate your skin upon handling.

Common varieties of Okra:

Annie Oakley IIThe plant grows to about 4 feet tall, maturing in about 52 days and bears spineless seed pods.

Clemson Spineless – These are the most popular varieties in markets and produce 4-feet tall plants, with a spread of about 48 inches. The variety matures in 55 to 60 days, giving ‘spineless’ fruit that can grow to 9 inches in length.  

Park’s Candelabra Branching – It’s a base-branching variety for easier harvest.

Cajun Delight – It’s a good choice for gardeners with shorter growing seasons since it takes only 50 to 55 days to mature. The plant reaches to about 4 feet tall, giving 3 to 5 inch long dark green seed pods for harvest.

In the ideal conditions, a single okra plant can yield 20 to 30 or even more seed pods. If you’re growing a self-sufficient garden, plan to grow 3 to 3 okra plants per person.

Temperature and Timing for growing Okra

Okra is a warm-season crop that’s planted 2 to 3 weeks after all the dangers of frost have passed in the region and the soil temperature is at least 60°F. The ideal growing temperatures range from 75°F to 90°F.

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Okra grows best with full sun exposure for at least 8 hours a day. Plant it in fertile, well-drained soil that’s slightly on the acidic side, with soil pH between 5.8 and 7.0.

How to Plant Okra

Okra gardening begins when you start seeds indoors in peat pots 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost. Grow the seedlings under grow lights until they are ready to go in the garden 5 to 6 weeks later. Seedlings should be hardened off before transplanting them in the garden. Space the transplants 1 to 2 feet apart for optimal development.

Alternatively, you can start the seeds directly in the garden 2 to 3 weeks after all the dangers of frost have passed. Plant the okra seeds ½ to 1 inch deep in the ground, spacing them a foot apart in rows. Space the rows 3 to 4 feet apart to give ample room to the plants to grow. You can also plant the seeds closer together and then thin them once seedlings emerge.

Keep the planting bed well-weeded while the plants are still young and apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch around them to suppress weeds. Offer the plants 1 inch of water per week or more if you live in a very hot region. Side-dress the plants with aged compost every 3 to 4 weeks for best results.

Harvest

After a successful okra garden growing season, you can look forward to a hefty harvest. Here’s how to harvest okra:

okra gardening, this heat-loving vegetable crop grows through the warm season
  • Okra is ready to harvest in 2 months after planting the seeds.
  • Harvest the seed pods while they’re still young and tender. They should ideally be around 2 to 3 inches long for best texture.
  • Wear gloves when harvesting okra because most varieties have spines that may irritate the skin. Spineless varieties may be harvested without gloves.
  • Continue harvesting the pods every other day to boost further fruiting.
  • Cut the stem just above the pod with a sharp knife to harvest the okras. If the stem is too hard, the okra has matured beyond what’s suitable for consumption. Remove it from the plant and toss it.
  • Remove the lower leaves after the first harvest to speed up production of further seed pods.

Storing

Okra lasts only 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Wrap unwashed okra in paper towels or place them in a paper bag before storing in the fridge.

If you want to store for longer, transfer okras without cutting or cooking to freezer bags and place them in the freezer. When stored in the freezer in this way, they can last for up to a year. You can continue using them as needed through the winter months.

Pests and Diseases

Pests

  • Aphids are a common problem with okra plants and can be avoided by growing tolerant varieties. If the infestation is heavy, insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils are a good way to control it.
  • Corn earworms can infest the plants, causing damage to the leaves, buds, flowers and pods. Bacillus thuringiensis can help control these insects naturally.
  • Cucumber beetles may also affect okra plants, damaging the leaves and stems, leaving the plants susceptible to bacterial wilt. Adult beetles also feed on the fruit, leaving behind unsightly scars. Kaolin clay can manage smaller infestations, while you’ll need to use insecticides if the infestation is heavy.

Diseases

  • Powdery mildew often affects okra plants, causing the leaves to roll upwards and give a scorched appearance. Application of suitable fungicides can control the problem, especially in its early stages.
  • Yellow vein mosaic disease is a common viral disease that infects the okra plants and is identified by yellow and green alternating patches on the infected leaves. Fruits are also yellowish and smaller in size. Plant resistant varieties and keep the field weed-free. Once the plant is infected, it will have to be removed to prevent the disease from spreading to the neighboring plants.

Hopefully, with all the things you’ve learned in this article, you can start the perfect okra gardening season and enjoy loads of fresh harvests.