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Maybe it’s just us, but there is something magical in a mouth-watering and gum-smacking plate of Southern comfort food. Whether you are indulging in a jumbo sweet potato drowned in warm butter and cinnamon, or crispy deep-fried pork chops and yellow corn-bread, there are endless options to enjoy. However, you cannot call a down-south meal complete until you have had a heaping side of Okra. While it is relatively easy to get it from supermarkets, growing Okra in Aquaponics Gardens keeps this dazzling crop primed and ready for your next recipe, all year-round.
In this article, we have a list of tips and techniques that can help you grow Okra in an aquaponics system.
Why Grow Okra in Your Aquaponics Garden?
Okra, also known as ladies’ fingers, originated in Africa. Most people regard it as a vegetable, but it is a fruit, biologically speaking. The earliest records about this fruit were dated back to the 12th century. Okra belongs to the Malvaceae family together with cotton.
While Okra has become synonymous with Southern culinary culture, the everyday uses and health benefits of the crop are surprisingly vast. In fact, Okra has been used in making industrial products such as paper and rope, as well as other applications. And not to be outdone, the nutritional aspects of Okra are reported to be on par with super veggies like Kale. Needless to say, however, most people looking to grow Okra in their aquaponics garden are likely looking to produce the crop for personal or commercial use.
Below, let’s examine the different types of Okra that you should consider.
Types of Okra
There are two general types of Okra, the Red and the Green Okra. Let’s have a closer look at these two types.
This type of Okra is what most of us are familiar with and is commonly available at groceries and local farmer’s markets. The most popular varieties are the following:
- Chinese – This is an extra-long variety that can grow up to 13 inches. It is typically grown in California.
- Clemson – Clemson Okra would take less than 60 days to fully mature. This variety is dark green with angular pods.
- Annie Oakley – This is a hybrid type of Okra, which is bright green and spineless. Like Clemson, you need to wait for about two months before you can harvest it.
Red Okra carries the same taste as the Green variety. When cooked, its pods will turn green. This type is native to Ethiopia. It was bred by Leon Robbins and was introduced in the early 80s.
How to Serve Okra From Your Aquaponics Garden
As a food, you can do so much with Okra, and it can be prepared in multiple ways. You can fry it, boil, pickle, roast, add it to your soup, make stuffed Okra, or toss it to your salad.
Preparing Okra is similar to how you will cook and serve asparagus. That is why you can use it for different dishes. You can also ground its seeds and drink it the same way you will have your favorite coffee. Older and bigger Okra can be used for making papers and rope. Indeed, this plant highly-versatile.
Health Benefits of Okra
Okra, while not a typical food in most households, has a lot of health benefits. It is rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, calories, folate, magnesium, carbs, protein, fiber, and fat. You can find some of the advantages of consuming Okra below:
- Promotes proper digestion
- Boosts immune system
- Strengthens and protect eye health
- Improves skin condition
- Maintains optimal heart health
- Treats certain types of cancers
- Lower blood pressure level
- Reduces symptoms of asthma
- Improves the condition of your hair
Cultivating Okra in Your Aquaponics Garden
If you live in an area where the climate is naturally warm, planting Okra is easier. However, regardless if you have an indoor or outdoor system, planting Okra is a worthwhile pursuit. Here are some fantastic tips about growing Okra in Aquaponics Gardens.
Aquaponic System Types
Okra plants thrive in neutral pH levels. The best would be between 6.5 to 7. As always make sure to use a quality pH meter.
Well-drained growing medium is perfect for Okra. Some of the recommended grow media are lava rocks and expanded clay. Take note that a poorly-drained or overly-saturated grow medium can kill your Okra.
Water and Air Temperature
The air temperature ideal for your Okra is between 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
To get the best results, allow at least 18 to 24 inches of space in between your Okra plants.
Your Okra will love a sunny spot in your backyard or under your indoor artificial lamps. It requires at least 8 hours of sun every day.
Before you plant your Okra, make sure that the seeds are soaked first in warm water. It will take an average of 90 days for your Okra to mature, and you have to take extra precautions when harvesting. Look for Okra that is at least 4 inches long.
Take note that Okra has spines, and wearing gloves is highly encouraged. It should be easy to remove. If you find your Okra is becoming more difficult to harvest, it could mean you need to begin harvesting earlier so that the plant doesn’t become overgrown.
The common prey that could infect your Okra are aphids, earworm, flea beetles, and green stinkbugs. As always, we discourage you from using harsh chemical pesticides as this could affect your plants and your fish. One way to combat these pests is to clean your aquaponics system regularly. You can also knock these pests off by hand or using a stream of water.
Your Okra can also suffer from Charcoal rot, Fusarium wilt, and Powdery mildew. Always ensure that your seeds are disease-free. Also, be on the lookout for Okra plants that might have been suffering from different diseases. Remove these right away and always maintain the right spacing.
Before you start enjoying your Okra, here are a few additional tips:
- If you store your harvested Okra inside the fridge, wrap it first on paper towels
- Avoid washing it until you need to use the Okra
- Your Okra will stay fresh inside your fridge for around three days
- It can stay fresh for three months inside a freezer