Though its Origin has not beeen well established but its believed that Okra originates from West Africa, its scientific name is “Abelmoschus esculentus” and can also be called “ Hibiscus esculentus”
Okra known as lady’s fingers, gumbo, okro (English); gombo, gumbo (French); bandakai, bindi (India); Kachang bendi (Malay); quimgombó (Spanish).This crop belongs to the family Malvaceae. It thrives well in a well drained deep soil. Optimum temperature required is 25-30 0 C. It takes about 90-100 days before okra starts flowering.
Some of the varieties of Okra are:
Park’s Candelabra Branching: which is a base-branching okra plant. This type of branching enables easy harvesting.
Louisiana Green Velvet: it is spineless and smooth. Its plant is often about 6 feet tall.
Cultivars/hybrids of okra include Annie Oakley, Annie Oakley II, Green Best and 1285.
The planting of Okra can be done either directly in the garden or first on the nursery site before transplanting. Okra thrives well in fertile, well-drained soil preferably loamy. You could soak the seeds overnight in tepid water to help speed up germination. Intra-row spacing ( spacing in between plants on the same row) on permanent field should be about 1 -2 feet apart, while inter-row(spacing in between rows) should be about 3-4feet apart. Weeding should be done as at when necessary. If cultivated during dry season, watering may be necessary.
Farm yard manure or compost manure could be applied to boost soil fertility.
Pests and Disease
Insect and disease attack: There have been high incidences of insect pests and disease attack.
Inaccessibility to improved varieties of seeds
Harvesting should be done every other day in other to reserve its freshness. Harvested okra is about 2-3 inches long. Cut the stem with a knife just above the cap. The varieties of okra with spines could irritate the skin while harvesting, so it is advisable to put on hand gloves while harvesting.
Okra could be stored in a cool dry place for 1 -2 days and could also be stored in a refrigerator and freezers whether raw or cooked. It could also be sliced and sun dried, then stored.
Blending of the dried sliced okra into powdery form can be done, which makes packaging less bulky and increases its shelf life. Okra could be sliced with knife for small scale production, but it is better sliced with the use of motorized slicer especially for large scale production. It could either be sun dried or oven died. Thereafter, it could be grinded into powdery form to enable longer storage and to reduce its bulkiness.
Okra contains fibre, vitamins and minerals, including calcium and vitamin C
Okra is a very important vegetable used to prepare different types of soups. Virtually, every tribe in Nigeria makes use of okra to prepare at least one of their traditional meals or delicacies. Thus, it is a widely acceptable vegetable
Immature fruits may be boiled, fried, eaten raw or steamed.
Okra fruits are used to make soups, sauces, stews, curries and even salads
Okra leaves are used to feed farm animals
Young leaves are sometimes used as a vegetable, in a similar manner to spinach, particularly in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Okra leaves could be dried and grinded into powder for storage. Flower buds and petals are sometimes eaten in times of food shortage.
Okra seeds are often used in place of dried peas, beans and in soups. In Nigeria, seeds are prepared into a food known as dandawan betso. In India, okra seeds are eaten in curries and chutneys.
Roasted okra seeds are grinded and used as a substitute for coffee in some areas. Considered by some to be one of the best coffee substitutes known, it was once widely used in Central America, Africa and Malaysia.
Medicinal use: Leaves and immature fruit have long been used in the East in poultices and applied to relieve pain, moisturize skin, induce sweating, prevent scurvy and treat urinary disorders. In Congo-Brazzaville, a leaf decoction is given for heart pains and to promote delivery during childbirth. Okra root has been used to treat syphilis in Malaya.
Okra mucilage has been used as a plasma replacement and blood volume expander.
Economic Importance/Production Statistics.
2011 production statistics revealed that Nigeria is the second largest producer of okra all over the world. It produced 1,060.620 tonnes of okra.
India was the largest producer which produced 5.784.000 tonnes of Okra in 2011. It was observed that the production margin between India and Nigeria is too wide. This shows that there is a great need for increase in the production level in Nigeria in other for us to have surplus and thereby enable exportation.
Profitability of Okra cultivation
A study of the profitability of okra in a local government in Ebonyi state carried out in 2010 showed that the average revenue from okra production in the area is N 61,507.89 per hectare while the total cost is N25,726.18 per hectare, which give rise to N 35,781.71 profit per hectare. This indicates that the enterprise is profitable and can serve as an additional source of revenue for households in the area. It also shows that there is a high demand for okra since it is the major component of most soup in the area.
In conclusion, more investors are needed into the profitable okra cultivation in other to boost both the investors’ economy and that of the nation and also continuous research should continue in order to know more about the untold glory of ladys finger.
[iii] SENSE Agric
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