Okra

(Abelmoschus esculentus)
Read Okra Blogs Here

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)

OUR WORK

In 2018 Chris Smith grew out 76 different varieties of okra as a research project to support a book he was working on, The Whole Okra. That trial was funded by a successful Kick Starter Campaign and the generous sponsorship of Sow True Seed. Variety observations and trial notes from the 2018 Trial can be seen here. In Many ways that project provided the proof of concept for The Utopian Seed Project to get off the ground.

In 2019 The Utopian Seed Project is planning another large okra variety trial with a whole new set of okra varieties, further exploring and celebrating the diversity of okra.

Peter Taylor aka PTPIX

Peter Taylor is an award winning photographer and friend of the Utopian Seed Project. In 2018 he took a series of ‘beauty shots’ of many of the okra varieties we grew. See more of his work here and follow him on Instagram here.

I've gone a bit crazy making okra petiole straws, they're the perfect byproduct from harvesting and using the leaves, which are the byproduct from growing okra for the pods! Use the whole plant 💚

#thewholeokra #okra #tuspokra #seedtostem
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One of the many Abelmoschus varieties we're growing this year is a variety of West African Okra (Abelmoschus caillei) that Jon Jackson of @comfortfarms has been stewarding after receiving seeds from his mother's homeland of Liberia. This variety is very special to him and he's called it Motherland Okra. I'm very honored to be growing it.

So far it's one if the healthiest looking cultivars in the field and when @lionpawlivity visited yesterday, she gravitated towards Motherland Okra with no influence from me and sat down next to the plants. I tried to explain that this wasn't really okra even though it looks like okra and she said, 'You can't tell me this isn't okra, who's to say what is and isn't okra.'

It was an eye opening moment that made okra even more expansive for me. Any of five squash species are collectively called squash, kale is split across two or three species. Well, guess what? Okra now claims at least two species in my mind and one of them is a kick ass hexaploid endemic to West Africa!

#westafricanokra #okra #abelmoschuscaillei #tuspokra #seedsaving #seeds #farming
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Abelmoschus manihot flowers are beautiful ❤️ we're growing a few different Abelmoschus manihot varieties this year and none of them are flowering yet, but this Korean Silk Flower is a variety that we've been growing for many years and is a reliable heavy producer. The flowers can be dried for tea and the leaves are edible and the plants are stunning!

Abelmoschus manihot has a number of subspecies, including Abelmoschus manihot subspecies tetraphyllus var. tetraphyllus (aka. A. tetraphyllus). We're growing two of these assessions from the USDA with an oil seed content of 23%, which is the highest we know of in any Abelmoschus species. They also produce pink flowers which can be harvested easily after pollination, so I'm considering the triple crop potential of A. tetraphyllus, with a leaf harvest, a dried flower harvest and an oil seed harvest.

Photo Credit @foodordeath_ (note: while these flowers look bigger than my head they are actually about 6 in across, there's some camera trickery going on!)

#Okra #Abelmoschusmanihot #seedoil #experimentalfarm #tuspokra
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Chef TT (@chefttlivinandlovin) came out to our Puerto Rico Evergreen okra grow out at Two Sided Farm in Mars Hill. She tasted an okra pod of every single plant and left a pink landscaping flag next to the varieties that really stood out to her. It was very exciting to hear her talk about the flavor differences between the different plants - everything from sweet pea like to spicy to citrusy sour to nutty, there was only one plant with really off flavors but all of the others were producing tasty pods so I'm excited to save seeds from this planting and share widely next year.

If you're a chef in the Asheville area and you have an hour or two to spare and you want to come and taste the row of okra - about 100 plants - then I'd love to get more input so we can make the best seed saving selections for flavor possible! Get in touch!

#Okra #seedselection #tuspokra #culinaryevaluation #farm #farming
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This is Whidley White, the early 1800s okra I'm working to restore for @seed_savers_exchange

It's been a fun project, although it's taking longer than either of us expected.

This is my third year selecting and I have almost completely eradicated any red tinges in the leaf veins and largely in the petioles.

The pods are mainly pale, with some nearing a true white/cream. One study I read (LSU) suggested white is clearly dominant over green. In not experiencing that.

This year I have a large enough population to self pollinate the on-type pods, which should give me a leap forward in uniformity for next year...

There is a two tone look that is hard to appreciate in this picture, but many pale pods have darker green lines running along the ridge tops!

Big thanks to Michael Fortune for planting the okra at his farm in Marshall and allowing me to up my population size in a big way!

#seedsavers #seedsaving #okra #whildleywhite #heirloom
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Marking the Whiskey White okra selections only to get photo bombed by a wasp.

#okra #whidleywhite #seedsaving
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I've been on a bit of a crazy okra journey recently, which has resulted in these seeds. You can learn more about the @sowtrueseed sponsored Whidby White Okra Community Seed Selection project via the link in our bio, but here's part of the story:

Whidley White Becomes Whidby White....

In the late 1980s Seed Savers Exchange received seeds from a Mrs. H.L. Jarrard of Oakwood, GA with very little information beyond the variety being in one family since the mid-1800s and it was called Whidley White. Chris Smith recently took up the cold case of trying to track down the family and some intense Googling led to him connecting with Joey Duran and his wife Tammy Duran. Joey is Mrs. H.L. Jarrard’s nephew and lives in the house where she grew up. Joey was able to fill in a lot of the family background, including the revelation that Whidley is highly likely the wrong name for this okra.

Mrs. H.L. Jarrard’s name was Vera Jarrard, married to Harvey Lou Jarrard. Vera Jarrard died in 2002. Vera’s brother (Joey Duran’s father) was Walter R. Duran (born 1931, married to Winnie Duran). Walter died in 1999 and his obituary notes, “Walter enjoyed working on his farm, growing a garden, riding on his tractor, wood working as well as tinkering with old trucks and clocks.” Walter’s mother, Ethel Whidby Duran, was born in 1892 married Jack C. Duran. Ethel’s father was Joseph W. Whidby (born 1856) and is the possible originator of this family heirloom (or perhaps his father….). So, this variety should almost certainly be called Whidby White and not Whidley White (we assume it was a typo, mis-hearing, or mis-reading of the original name).

We still don’t have a physical description of the okra, neither Joey nor Vera’s daughter (Melinda) have memories of a specific okra grown by their respective father/mother. However Walter Duran was a big time gardener and seed saver and Joey still had access to a freezer full of seeds that his father kept. This picture shows the okra Joey found. We are going to grow out some of those okra seeds and compare to our ‘Whidley/Whidby’ White. The anticipation is going to kill me!

#okra #tuspokra #whidbywhite #whidleywhite #seedsaving #seedkeeping #heirloom
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This is what 121 varieties of okra look like in the back of a truck! Just wait until they all grow up 💚

#okra #tuspokra #farming #okratrials #varietytrials

Thanks to @southernexposureseed for sponsoring @lovesomegreen to come grow okra with us for a season (with support from @row7seeds and the @nellnewman Foundation).
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