We eat the fruit of this plant a lot. It’s called okra (I used to call it starfruit when I was little because it was served sliced crosswise and is star-shaped) and tastes good when stirfried, or in soups or in a mixed salad.
It is hardy to zone 0 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.
Abelmoschus is a genus of about fifteen species of flowering plants in the Malvaceae or mallow family, native to tropical Asia, Africa and northern Australia. It was formerly included within Hibiscus (I thought they were related the flowers are so similar), but is now classified as a distinct genus.
They grow to 2 m tall. The leaves are 10-40 cm long and broad, palmately lobed with 3-7 lobes, the lobes very variable in depth, from barely lobed, to cut almost to the base of the leaf. The flowers are 4-8 cm 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, 5-20 cm long, containing numerous seed (you can just see the tip of one fruit in the photo).
Abelmoschus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.
Edible Parts: Fruit; Leaves; Root; Seed.
Edible Uses: Coffee; Oil; Pectin
Immature fruit – cooked on their own or added to soups etc.. They can be used fresh or dried. Mucilaginous, they are commonly used as a thickening for soups, stews and sauces. The fruits are rich in pectin and are also a fair source of iron and calcium. The fresh fruits contain 740 iu vitamin A. The fruit should be harvested whilst young, older fruits soon become fibrous. The fruit can be up to 20cm long. Seed – cooked or ground into a meal and used in making bread or made into ‘tofu’ or ‘tempeh’. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. Probably the best of the coffee substitutes. The seed contains up to 22% of an edible oil. The leaves, flower buds, flowers and calyces can be eaten cooked as greens. The leaves can be dried, crushed into a powder and stored for later use. They are also used as a flavouring. Root – it is edible but very fibrous. Mucilaginous, with many medicinal uses.
A fibre obtained from the stems is used as a substitute for jute and also for making paper and textiles. The fibres are about 2.4mm long. When used for paper the stems are harvested in late summer or autumn after the edible seedpods have been harvested, the leaves are removed and the stems are steamed until the fibres can be stripped off. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye and then put in a ball mill for 3 hours. The paper is cream coloured. A decoction of the root or of the seeds is used as a size for paper.
Prefers a well-drained humus rich fertile soil in full sun and a pH around 6 to 6.7 but it tolerates a wide range of soil types and pH from 5.5 to 8. It prefers a soil with a high potash content. The plant requires a warm sunny position sheltered from winds. It likes plenty of moisture, both in the soil and in the atmosphere. Okra is commonly cultivated in warm temperate and tropical areas for its edible seedpod, there are many named varieties. Most cultivars require about 4 months from sowing before a crop is produced, though some early maturing varieties can produce a crop in 50 days in the tropics. Plants resent being transplanted.
Sources: Wikipedia and Plants for Future database