Okra (Hibiscus Esculentus), also known as gumbo, lady’s fingers, kiabo and okro, is a plant of Ethiopian origin, although it is now grown and cultivated all over the world. The pod of the vegetable has a greenish color and tiny seeds which can be added to broths, stews and salads.
Thanks to its rich nutrient profile, okra has been used as a natural remedy for a variety of health problems in the past. People have been using the vegetable to lower high cholesterol, control diabetes, curb cravings and even destroy cancer cells.
Here are some of the health benefits of okra:
Curbs Your Cravings
Okra is rich in soluble fiber which will make you stay full for longer. By making you feel full for a longer period, okra will reduce your cravings and prevent weight gain.
Fatigue is a common problem around the world nowadays and is a common symptom of numerous ailments. Luckily, okra can help you fight it. The seeds contain antioxidants and polyphenols which can promote glycogen storage in the liver, which means more energy for your cells.
The okra seeds can reduce fasting glucose levels and control diabetes. They will do this by inhibiting a specific enzyme (alpha-glucosidase) that breaks down carbs and improving the insulin sensitivity of your cells. Okra has been used to treat and prevent diabetes for centuries and even science confirms it can indeed help in the treatment of this difficult condition.
Regulates Your Cholesterol Levels
Okra promotes the reduction of high cholesterol levels and prevents the accumulation of fat in your body. The vegetable can reduce the total cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improve the production of bile acids in the stool, which will prevent atherosclerosis and heart attack in the long run.
Stops Bleeding And Prevents Brittle Bones
Okra is full of vitamin K, a vitamin that can reinforce your bones and promote better blood coagulation. In this way, the vegetable can prevent fractures, osteoporosis and excessive bleeding due to injuries.
Boosts Your Immune System And Improves Your Eyesight
Okra is rich in vitamin A, an important nutrient that can boost your immune system by increasing your white blood cell count. Okra will strengthen your body’s defenses against a variety of health problems and also improve your eyesight.
H.Pylori infections have become pretty common nowadays. Helicobacter Pylori is a bacterium which lives in our intestinal lining and may cause inflammation which will lead to gastritis. Okra juice has proven itself as a powerful bacteria fighter. By destroying the H. Pylori bacterium in your gut, okra can effectively reduce the inflammation and reduce the risk of gastritis.
How to grow Okra
Okra needs full sun. It will grow in ordinary garden soil but does best in fertile loam, particularly where a nitrogen-fixing crop, such as early peas, grew previously.
In the South, plant the first crop in the early spring and a second crop in June. In short-season areas, start plants indoors 6 weeks before setting them out (3 to 4 weeks after the last frost date). Sow two seeds per peat pot and clip off the weaker seedling.
When seeding okra directly in the ground, wait until after the soil has warmed and the air temperature is at least 60°F. Use fresh seed, and soak it overnight or nick each seed coat with a file to encourage germination. Sow seed 1/2 inch deep in light soil and 1 inch deep in heavy soil; spacing is 3 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Thin seedlings to 18 to 24 inches apart, always leaving the strongest of the young plants.
When okra is 4 inches tall, mulch to keep out weeds and conserve moisture. Water during dry spells. Every 3 to 4 weeks, side-dress with compost or feed with compost tea. In areas with long, hot summers, cut the plants back almost to ground level in midsummer and fertilize to produce a second crop.
Okra seldom succumbs to pests or diseases. Hand pick any stinkbugs that appear; these light green, shield-shaped bugs cause misshapen pods. Corn earworms, cabbage loopers, aphids, and flea beetles may also become a problem. Fusarium wilt, a soilborne disease, is sometimes a problem in hot regions. If the disease causes leaves to yellow and wilt, pull and destroy affected plants. Crop rotation is the best preventive measure.
About 50 to 60 days after planting, edible pods will start to appear. They are tough when mature, so harvest daily with a sharp knife when they are no more than finger sized and when stems are still tender and easy to cut. Pick frequently and the plants will keep producing until killed by frost. Be sure to remove and compost any mature pods you might have missed earlier.
Many people find their skins are sensitive to the pods’ prickly spines, so wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting, or plant a spineless variety such as ‘Clemson Spineless’.