By Jannie Vaught
As with all season transitions, it is always tumultuous. That’s a nice word for Stormy! Just when we get the tiller and digging tools ready it comes to a storm, but as a generational farmer and now a gardener it just seems normal. Rush get ready, now wait. And in the waiting time get out all those seeds and your garden planner or garden journal and begin to place into areas and rows and mounds what will be in this year’s garden. This year is the year of Wild Boar Tomato seedlings 4 varieties, ghost peppers, and sweet peppers. The top of the list is Okra, The Peoples Food. Last week I was one of the presenters at the Back To Basic Fair at the LLano Library. And I presented on Okra. What was especially noticed was that Okra is like the shy girl at the school dance who stays a little out of the way, but when you take the time to get to know her she is the “Gem” at the dance. Often ignored because of the s-word, slime, but for those of us who know her and treasure that first pan of frying okra, with the excitement of a child on a holiday. We know this plant is truly The Peoples Food. Easy to grow in rows but don’t crowd her, give her some water, she can stand the heat and less water, and is resistant to many insects.
In the Mallow family, this plant has been the star in every continent. The seeds are high in protein, the flowers are edible and dried can make tea. Of course, the tender pods are what we’re after, and the big tough pods produce seeds for next year as well as ground fine to be used with other flours in loaves of bread, muffins, pancakes. The leaves are used by trendy chefs now, dipped in batter and fried crisp. The stalks can be made into cordage and used for fiber and some even use it in natural paper making. As your working out that garden plan may be a ring around those tomatoes of well-placed Okra to protect them is a wise idea from the southern gardeners. I grow Clemson Spineless every year as my steady grower, then I add Hill Country Red and now this year a Burgandy variety is going in. What many growers are saying is this “With the weird weather, drought then flood, no rain too much rain Okra is the one that keeps on growing no matter what is thrown at it. Give it some good loose soil, compost and space it properly (read the package). She will need a few mild feedings of compost teas and some seaweed. This plant has never failed the human population to supply a nutritious abundant crop that can be used for so many things.
This year I will slice any extra and place it in my food dryer to be stored and used in the winter, talking about okra makes me want to have some in a soup. And take the Okra flower challenge, when the flowers are open take one and have a taste you will be pleasantly surprised. The awkward girl dances quite well!
Growing Green and planning for spring with Jannie