The aim of this trial was to experience and explore and catalog the wide diversity within the species Abelmoschus esculentus. Many people are unaware that such diversity exists, and this trial barely scratched the surface. It was stunning to walk into the okra field and see so many different shapes, sizes and colors of the leaves, pods and plants of okra.

Okra Trial Methodology

On April 15th 2018 I soaked seeds of each of the varieties overnight. I then seeded them into 72 plug flats and placed in a germination chamber with supplemental heat. I thinned the seedlings to one per plug and gave artificial light.

I transplanted the okra starts on May 15th 2018. My feeling was that most of the starts were a little overgrown. Rapid germination and growth had led to large plants and established roots. My main trial site was at Franny’s Farm in Leicester NC, but I also had 10 Random Reds at the DiLoreti Family Farm, also in Leicester NC.

The rows at Franny’s Farm were raised and we used drip irrigation and plasticulture. The field was recently plowed pasture. I added a handful of BlackKow compost into each transplant hole, which were space 18″ apart in 30″ rows, and 4ft between row centers.

I planted 6 plants of each variety (60 varieties), giving 4 rows of 15 varieties. This was a fairly small population size, but allowed me to observe the varietal traits of a lot of okra in one season.

Notes for the okra variety table

  • The Variety Notes are brief summaries of pertinent information collated from seed companies, seed savers, universities, and researchers. I have included days to harvest where I felt this information was reported consistently and reliably.
  • The Pod Information and Trial Observations are simply my notes of what I observed and learned while growing these varieties in the summer of 2018 in Leicester, North Carolina. My hope is that these notes can offer some insight into okra’s vast diversity and encourage you to grow some next season!  I have abbreviated the pod information and supplied a key, in most cases the main characteristic is listed, but on occasion a secondary characteristic will be listed in parentheses i.e. Bear Creek Okra is listed as pod color G (Y), meaning it’s predominantly green podded with some pale green or yellow variation. If a variety has distinctly different characteristics then I’ve represented that variation with a hyphen i.e. Puerto Rico Evergreen has pod spininess listed as Sm-V-Sp meaning the variety displayed some smooth pods, some velvety pods and some spiny pods with no clear dominance.

Okra variety table key

  • Pod Color: W (White or Very Pale Green) / Y (Yellowish or Pale Green) / G (Solid Green) / Gd (Dark Green) / O (Orange or Light Red) / R (Red) / Rd (Dark Red) / GRb (Green with Red blushing).
  • Pod Spininess: Sm (Smooth or Spineless) / V (Velvety or Soft Hairs) / Sp (Spiny) / VSp (Very Spiny).
  • Pod Shape: Ro (Rounded) / Fl (Flat sided) / Ri (Ridged) / DRi (Deeply Ridged) | N (Normal) /St (Stubby) / Bi (Big) / E (Elongated).