From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Plant with mature and developing fruits (pods) (Hong Kong)
Mature and developing fruits (pods) (Hong Kong)
One fruit (pod) in longitudinal section
Longitudinal section of fruit
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Abelmoschus
A. esculentus
Binomial name
Abelmoschus esculentus
  • Abelmoschus bammia Webb
  • Abelmoschus longifolius (Willd.) Kostel.
  • Abelmoschus officinalis (DC.) Endl.
  • Abelmoschus praecox Sickenb.
  • Abelmoschus tuberculatus Pal & Singh
  • Hibiscus esculentus L.
  • Hibiscus hispidissimus A.Chev. nom. illeg.
  • Hibiscus longifolius Willd.
  • Hibiscus praecox Forssk.

Okra or Okro (US: /ˈkrə/, UK: /ˈɒkrə/), Abelmoschus esculentus, known in many English-speaking countries as ladies' fingers or ochro, is a flowering plant in the mallow family. It has edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of West African, Ethiopian, Southeast Asian, and South Asian origins. Cultivated in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate regions around the world, okra is used in the cuisines of many countries.[2]


Abelmoschus is New Latin from Arabic أَبُو المِسْك (ʾabū l-misk, “father of musk”),[3] while esculentus is Latin for being fit for human consumption.[4]

The first use of the word okra (alternatively; okro or ochro) appeared in 1679 in the Colony of Virginia, deriving from the Igbo word ọ́kụ̀rụ̀.[5] The word gumbo was first used in American vernacular around 1805, deriving from Louisiana Creole,[6] but originates from either the Umbundu word ochinggômbo[7] or the Kimbundu word ki-ngombo.[8] Despite the fact that in most of the United States the word gumbo often refers to the dish, gumbo, many places in the Deep South may have used it to refer to the pods and plant as well as many other variants of the word found across the African diaspora in the Americas.[9]

Origin and distribution[edit]

Whole plant with blossom and immature pod
An Okra field in Senegal

Okra is an allopolyploid of uncertain parentage. However, proposed parents include Abelmoschus ficulneus, A. tuberculatus and a reported "diploid" form of okra.[10] Truly wild (as opposed to naturalised) populations are not known with certainty, and the West African variety has been described as a cultigen.[11]

The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of Southeast Asian,[11] South Asian, Ethiopian and West African origins.[12] The Egyptians and Moors of the 12th and 13th centuries used the Arabic word for the plant, bamya, suggesting it had come into Egypt from Arabia, but earlier it was probably taken from Ethiopia to Arabia. The plant may have entered southwest Asia across the Red Sea or the Bab-el-Mandeb strait to the Arabian Peninsula, rather than north across the Sahara, or from India. One of the earliest European accounts is by a Spanish Moor who visited Egypt in 1216 and described the plant under cultivation by the locals who ate the tender, young pods with meal.[13] From Arabia, the plant spread around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and eastward.[14]

Plants about one week after germination (Oklahoma, USA

The plant was introduced to the Americas by ships plying the Atlantic slave trade[15] by 1658, when its presence was recorded in Brazil. It was further documented in Suriname in 1686. Okra may have been introduced to southeastern North America from Africa in the early 18th century. By 1748, it was being grown as far north as Philadelphia.[16] Thomas Jefferson noted it was well established in Virginia by 1781. It was commonplace throughout the Southern United States by 1800, and the first mention of different cultivars was in 1806.[13]

Botany and cultivation[edit]

Pollen grains
Cross-section of a pod

The species is a perennial, often cultivated as an annual in temperate climates, often growing to around 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) tall. As a member of the Malvaceae, it is related to such species as cotton, cocoa, and hibiscus. The leaves are 10–20 centimetres (4–8 in) long and broad, palmately lobed with 5–7 lobes. The flowers are 4–8 centimetres (1+583+18 in) in diameter, with five white to yellow petals, often with a red or purple spot at the base of each petal. The pollens are spherical and approximately 188 microns in diameter. The fruit is a capsule up to 18 centimetres (7 in) long with pentagonal cross-section, containing numerous seeds.

Abelmoschus esculentus is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous fruits or pods containing round, white seeds. It is among the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetable species in the world and will tolerate soils with heavy clay and intermittent moisture, but frost can damage the pods. In cultivation, the seeds are soaked overnight prior to planting to a depth of 1–2 centimetres (381316 in). It prefers a soil temperature of at least 20 °C (68 °F) for germination, which occurs between six days (soaked seeds) and three weeks. As a tropical plant, it also requires a lot of sunlight, and it should also be cultivated in soil that has a pH between 5.8 and 7, ideally on the acidic side.[17] Seedlings require ample water. The seed pods rapidly become fibrous and woody and, to be edible as a vegetable, must be harvested when immature, usually within a week after pollination.[18] The first harvest will typically be ready about 2 months after planting, and it will be approximately 2–3 inches (51–76 mm) long.[17]

The most common disease afflicting the okra plant is verticillium wilt, often causing a yellowing and wilting of the leaves. Other diseases include powdery mildew in dry tropical regions, leaf spots, yellow mosaic and root-knot nematodes. Resistance to yellow mosaic virus in A. esculentus was transferred through a cross with Abelmoschus manihot and resulted in a new variety called Parbhani kranti.[19]

In the United States much of the supply is grown in Florida, especially around Dade in southern Florida.[20][21] Okra is grown throughout the state to some degree, so okra is available ten months of the year.[20] Yields range from less than 18,000 pounds per acre (20,000 kg/ha) to over 30,000 pounds per acre (34,000 kg/ha).[20] Wholesale prices can go as high as $18/bushel which is $0.60 per pound ($1.3/kg).[20] The Regional IPM Centers provide integrated pest management plans for use in the state.[20]

Food and uses[edit]


Stir-fried sliced okra fruits

The pods of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic "goo" or slime when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains soluble fiber.[22] One possible way to de-slime okra is to cook it with an acidic food, such as tomatoes, to minimize the mucilage.[23] Pods are cooked, pickled, eaten raw, or included in salads. Okra may be used in developing countries to mitigate malnutrition and alleviate food insecurity.[22]

In cuisine[edit]

In Cuba and Puerto Rico, the vegetable is referred to as quimbombó, and is used in dishes such as quimbombó guisado (stewed okra), a dish very similar to Southern gumbo.[24][25] It is also used in traditional dishes in the Dominican Republic, where it is called molondrón.[26] In the Brazilian state of Bahia, okra is known as quiabo and is used to prepare caruru, a dish of cultural and religious importance - in addition to being a symbol of Afro-Brazilian cuisine. [27] In South Asia, the pods are used in many spicy vegetable preparations as well as cooked with beef, mutton, lamb and chicken.[28][29]


Raw okra is 90% water, 2% protein, 7% carbohydrates and contains negligible fat. In a 100 gram reference amount, raw okra is a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K, with moderate contents of thiamin, folate and magnesium (table).

Okra, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy138 kJ (33 kcal)
7.46 g
Sugars1.48 g
Dietary fibre3.3 g
0.19 g
1.9 g
Vitamin A equiv.
36 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.2 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.06 mg
Niacin (B3)
1 mg
Folate (B9)
60 μg
Vitamin C
23 mg
Vitamin E
0.27 mg
Vitamin K
31.3 μg
82 mg
0.62 mg
57 mg
61 mg
299 mg
0.58 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water89.6 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.

Leaves and seeds[edit]

Young okra leaves may be cooked similarly to the greens of beets, dandelions, or used in salads. Okra seeds may be roasted and ground to form a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.[13] When importation of coffee was disrupted by the American Civil War in 1861, the Austin State Gazette said, "An acre of okra will produce seed enough to furnish a plantation with coffee in every way equal to that imported from Rio."[30]

Greenish-yellow edible okra oil is pressed from okra seeds; it has a pleasant taste and odor, and is high in unsaturated fats such as oleic acid and linoleic acid.[31] The oil content of some varieties of the seed is about 40%. At 794 kilograms per hectare (708 lb/acre), the yield was exceeded only by that of sunflower oil in one trial.[32] A 1920 study found that a sample contained 15% oil.[33]

Industrial uses[edit]

Bast fibre from the stem of the plant has industrial uses such as the reinforcement of polymer composites.[34] The mucilage produced by the okra plant can be used for the removal of turbidity from wastewater by virtue of its flocculant properties.[35][36] Having composition similar to a thick polysaccharide film, okra mucilage is under development as a biodegradable food packaging, as of 2018.[37] A 2009 study found okra oil suitable for use as a biofuel.[38]



  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  2. ^ National Research Council (2006-10-27). "Okra". Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables. Lost Crops of Africa. Vol. 2. National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-10333-6. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  3. ^ "Definition of Abelmoschus". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  4. ^ "Latin definition for esculentus, esculenta, esculentum (ID: 19365)". Latin Dictionary and Grammar Resources - Latdict. 2020. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  5. ^ "Definition of okra". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2020. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  6. ^ Justin Vogt (2009-12-29). "Gumbo: The mysterious history". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  7. ^ "Definition of gumbo". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2020. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  8. ^ "Many food names in English come from Africa". VOA. 2018-02-06. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  9. ^ Stanley Dry (2020). "A short history of gumbo". Southern Foodways Alliance. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  10. ^ Patel, S. R. "GENETIC ADVANCE UNDER SELECTION IN SEGREGATING POPULATION IN OKRA (Abelmoschus esculentus L.)". AGRES – an International e. Journal.
  11. ^ a b Vegetables. Wageningen, Netherlands: Backhuys. 2004. p. 21. ISBN 9057821478.
  12. ^ "Okra: botany and horticulture".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ a b c "Okra, or 'Gumbo,' from Africa". Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M University.
  14. ^ "Okra - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". www.sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 2021-11-09.
  15. ^ " Okra gumbo and rice" Archived 2005-10-28 at the Wayback Machine by Sheila S. Walker, The News Courier, unknown date
  16. ^ "Colonial Food In Philadelphia - 1883 Words | Internet Public Library". www.ipl.org. Retrieved 2021-11-09.
  17. ^ a b Almanac, Old Farmer's. "Okra". Old Farmer's Almanac. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  18. ^ Kurt Nolte. "Okra seed" (PDF). Yuma County Cooperative Extension. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-31. Retrieved 2012-10-17.
  19. ^ Plant breeding, Chapter 9.2 (PDF). Strategies For Enhancement in Food Production. 2020.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ a b c d e "Southern Florida 2005 Okra PMSP". Regional Integrated Pest Management Centers Database. 2022-05-04. Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  21. ^ Aguiar, José L; McGiffen, Milt; Natwick, Eric; Takele, Etaferahu (2011). Okra Production in California. University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR). p. 3. doi:10.3733/ucanr.7210. ISBN 978-1-60107-002-9. 7210.
  22. ^ a b Gemede, H. F.; Haki, G. D.; Beyene, F; Woldegiorgis, A. Z.; Rakshit, S. K. (2015). "Proximate, mineral, and antinutrient compositions of indigenous Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) pod accessions: Implications for mineral bioavailability". Food Science & Nutrition. 4 (2): 223–33. doi:10.1002/fsn3.282. PMC 4779480. PMID 27004112.
  23. ^ Jill Neimark (5 September 2018). "Leave it to botanists to turn cooking into a science lesson". US National Public Radio. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  24. ^ Julie Schwietert Collazo. "Cuban Quimbombo (Afro-Cuban Okra)". The Latin Kitchen. Archived from the original on 2020-10-23. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  25. ^ Gloria Cabada-Leman (22 June 2008). "QUIMBOMBÓ GUISADO". whats4eats. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  26. ^ "El intrépido molondrón" (in Spanish). Diario Libre. Retrieved 2022-08-29.
  27. ^ Fregoneze, Jesus da Costa, Sousa, Josmara B. , Marlene, Nancy (2019-09-24). "The 10 Things You Need To Know About Traditional Caruru" (Press release). Salvador: Visit Salvador. Retrieved 2022-11-19.{{cite press release}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  28. ^ Willis, Virginia (2014). Okra: a Savor the South cookbook. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 75–82. ISBN 978-1-4696-1442-7. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  29. ^ Taylor Sen, Colleen (2004). Food culture in India. Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 60, 150. ISBN 0-313-32487-5. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  30. ^ Austin State Gazette [TEX.], November 9, 1861, p. 4, c. 2, copied in Confederate Coffee Substitutes: Articles from Civil War Newspapers Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, University of Texas at Tyler
  31. ^ Martin, Franklin W. (1982). "Okra, Potential Multiple-Purpose Crop for the Temperate Zones and Tropics". Economic Botany. 36 (3): 340–345. doi:10.1007/BF02858558. S2CID 38546395.
  32. ^ Mays, D A, Buchanan, W, Bradford, B N, Giordano, P M (1990). "Fuel production potential of several agricultural crops". Advances in New Crops: 260–263.
  33. ^ Jamieson, George S.; Baughman, Walter F. (1920). "Okra Seed Oil.1". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 42: 166. doi:10.1021/ja01446a023.
  34. ^ De Rosa, I.M.; Kenny, J.M.; Puglia, D.; Santulli, C.; Sarasini, F. (2010). "Morphological, thermal and mechanical characterization of okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) fibres as potential reinforcement in polymer composites". Composites Science and Technology. 70 (1): 116–122. doi:10.1016/j.compscitech.2009.09.013.
  35. ^ Konstantinos Anastasakis; Dimitrios Kalderis; Evan Diamadopoulos (2009), "Flocculation behavior of mallow and okra mucilage in treating wastewater", Desalination, 249 (2): 786–791, doi:10.1016/j.desal.2008.09.013
  36. ^ Monika Agarwal; Rajani Srinivasan; Anuradha Mishra (2001), "Study on Flocculation Efficiency of Okra Gum in Sewage Waste Water", Macromolecular Materials and Engineering, 286 (9): 560–563, doi:10.1002/1439-2054(20010901)286:9<560::AID-MAME560>3.0.CO;2-B
  37. ^ Araújo, Antonio; Galvão, Andrêssa; Filho, Carlos Silva; Mendes, Francisco; Oliveira, Marília; Barbosa, Francisco; Filho, Men Sousa; Bastos, Maria (2018). "Okra mucilage and corn starch bio-based film to be applied in food". Polymer Testing. 71: 352–361. doi:10.1016/j.polymertesting.2018.09.010. ISSN 0142-9418. S2CID 139366820.
  38. ^ Farooq, Anwar; Umer Rashid; Muhammad Ashraf; Muhammad Nadeem (March 2010). "Okra (Hibiscus esculentus) seed oil for biodiesel production". Applied Energy. 87 (3): 779–785. doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2009.09.020.

External links[edit]