By Julio P. Yap Jr.
Health-conscious individuals have started to include okra in their diet due to its high fiber content, plus, it also contains essential vitamins like B and C, potassium, folic acid, and calcium.
Even its seeds are edible. In fact, a local farmer at a remote barangay in the province of Quezon is already processing okra seeds into coffee.
Since it can supply our requirements for dietary fiber, okra is said to help prevent constipation and keeps waste moving efficiently throughout our digestive tract.
Among the methods that is becoming popular with the health-conscious is drinking “okra water” where several okra pods are soaked overnight in water, which was reported to help alleviate the symptoms of diabetes.
While more people are becoming aware of the health benefits of okra, or known in other countries as “lady’s finger,” it would be nice if we could cultivate the crop in our backyard gardens or even in our farms.
After all, okra is one of the easiest crops to cultivate, according to Allied Botanical Corporation (ABC) Region 4-B regional sales manager Rudy Dean.
To produce better pods, Dean says that the use of Condor quality seeds is suggested, the Camiling smooth variety in particular.
He says the variety is “flawless,” meaning the pods will have no hairy spines and can be grown all year-round.
Aside from being prolific, he says, the variety has a long productive life, the plants are vigorous, and have a very good tolerance to different pests and diseases.
“You could harvest almost double by using the variety,” Dean pointed out.
To help those who are interested to cultivate the variety in their backyard gardens or farms, Dean offered his expertise on how to cultivate our own okra plants in a very easy and step-by-step guide.
For direct seeding, Dean advised us to use just one seed per hole in our plots, and the distance per hole should be 50 centimeters (cm) or half a meter.
While the distance between plots should be one-and-a-half meter to two meters to provide ease for maintenance and harvesting.
After sowing the seeds, we should provide about half-liter of water for each hole.
The succeeding watering frequency should be after two or three days later.
After 15 days, Dean advised the use complete fertilizer. This should be repeated after 35 days.
Later on, maintain the plants by using foliar fertilizers like the Peters Professional Water soluble fertilizer (9-45-15) blossom booster.
He explained that it is a completely water-soluble foliar fertilizer which is especially formulated with M77 and chelated trace elements for maximum nutrient absorption.
This is particularly best during the plant’s reproductive stage.
To make the plants more prolific, Dean also advised us to use Peters Yield Booster (15-10-30).
To help make the color of the fruits more attractive and to help the plants to produce bigger fruits, the use of Nutribella Super Yield (15-15-30) is recommended.
Some 35 days after sowing, the first bloom will usually come out, then the fruiting period follows.
The fruits can then be harvested after 10 to 12 days, where the ideal size of the fruit should be about five to six inches.
Succeeding harvest of the fruits can be done every two days, he explained.
Following the suggestions and guidance of Dean, we can have the opportunity to have our own freshly harvested supply of the nutritious and health-giving vegetable.
The species is considered as a perennial plant which is mostly cultivated in areas with tropical climate like the Philippines, where it could grow to as high as two meters.
Another report indicated that the other health benefits of okra may include lowering our cholesterol levels, help alleviate migraine, and a good source of non-dairy calcium.
With its different health benefits, the consumption of okra should be advocated, owing to its nutritional value.
Following its availability and the numerous ways it can be prepared, okra should be a very pleasurable vegetable to eat.
Heeding the recommendation of Dean, vegetable farmers would be able to increase their yield, and produce better okra pods which can command a higher price in the market.
At the same time, farmers can save on the use of other inputs due to the variety’s tolerance to different pests and diseases which can adversely affect the growth and productivity of the okra plants.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s September 2018 issue.