To get started with this piece, I have to begin with a confession – I’ve never grown or eaten Okra before! However, I’m always interested in something new so I did a bunch of research which I’ll sum up here. Of course, the first thing I wondered about was what Okra tastes like. The answers were pretty mixed, but can be summed up as “rather like beans.”
Initially, I was a little disappointed, but a little more digging uncovered a bunch of information that got me excited all over again. The first thing I discovered is that you can eat and enjoy far more than just the pods. The whole Okra plant is edible, delivering greens that can be cooked or eaten raw and fruits that, while edible raw, are probably better cooked. So far, so interesting, but when space is limited, should one go for green beans or Okra?
Growing Both Green Beans and Okra: Why it’s Such a Great Idea
The most productive green beans are the vining varieties. They require some kind of trellis or support to scramble about on. I often recommend planting them near fences, but that option isn’t always available. The alternative, if you don’t want to use a trellis is bush beans, but although I do love these compact plants, the yield per plant will be substantially lower.
Okra solves the problem. These plants have an upright, robust growth habit, and I was super-interested to find out that a lot of gardeners are growing both together, planting bean seeds around the okra and allowing the bean plants to use them as a support to scramble up.
I love this idea because it’s a real space saver, and you’ll get two crops for the space you use – plus, no need to worry about trellising your beans, which suits me, because building a trellis looks like work to me.
Health Benefits of Okra
Beans are something we’re all familiar with and we know that they have a ton of nutritional benefits, but what about Okra? As you will probably know, we don’t like making a lot of health claims, but we found a super-interesting, medically reviewed article on the possible medicinal use of Okra in managing diabetes.
According to the author, research is being carried out on Okra, but it is in its early stages. We do know that the roasted seeds were used as a diabetes treatment in traditional medicine, and that, along with the use of okra in other forms, is under investigation.
With nothing conclusively proven yet, we definitely wouldn’t recommend trying to treat diabetes with just Okra, but it seems that eating it may help to balance blood-sugar levels. There’s also cause to consider Okra as a plant with anti-stress effects and there’s some indication that it may help to lower cholesterol levels.
However, if you are diabetic, it might be wise to consult your doctor before using okra frequently. Natural agents can interact with certain medicines making them less effective than they should be. The drug Metaformin could be impacted in this way, so it’s better not to take risks if you’re using it.
Beyond that, we can say for certain that Okra is nutritious and healthy to eat. It’s high in dietary fiber and it’s rich in vitamins and minerals. With low calorie levels thrown into the mix, it’s definitely anything but “junk food” which is notoriously low in nutritional value while being high in calories.
Health Benefits of Green Beans
The nutritional content of green beans is very similar to that of Okra. There are sources that say you can have too much of a good thing here, but that probably goes for just about anything. For example, I once got horribly sick from eating too many apples at a sitting, and we all know that apples are healthy in the general way.
Much of the information I found was pretty much general knowledge about the benefits of the vitamins and minerals that green beans contain. But I got excited when I read that pairing green beans with char-grilled meat may counteract the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines. With BBQ high on our list of summer activities, green beans could be just the thing to have handy in the garden.
Another sensible reason for growing Okra and green beans together is their ability to share companions. Although neither of these plants is particularly sensitive to pests and diseases, the pest species that may be interested in them are largely shared. Basil, another summer standby worth growing, helps to repel quite a lot of pest species owing to its aroma. Marigolds can also be a help and can act as a trap crop for parasitic nematodes that might affect root growth.
Okra loves hot weather and grows fast. While you wouldn’t want it completely shading your other veggies out, it can be helpful during the hotter months of summer because it provides some protection from the harshest rays of the sun. Basil often struggles in the hottest weather as does lettuce, and your parsley plants will be among the herbs thankful for a little shade during the hottest months.
Melons and cucumbers apparently do well when planted with Okra, but other vine-plants may be bad for the crop since they could encourage parasitic nematodes. The sources I read recommended planting Okra in soil that hasn’t been used for vines or potatoes for at least a year – worth remembering!
What’s Your Experience of Okra?
Despite decades spent growing plants, I somehow seem to have missed out on Okra along the way. I’ll be rectifying that now that I’ve discovered so many interesting things about the plant. Some of the recipe ideas I’ve seen sound really yummy and I can’t wait to try them out. Meanwhile, we’d love to hear your Okra growing hints, tips, and comments. Give us a shout out today – because caring means sharing!