By David Wall, Mount Pleasant Master Gardener
One of the more fun crops to raise is okra. Historically, in our area, Clemson spineless has been the variety to grow or purchase. Its main limitation has been it needs to be picked at a maximum of 4 inches in length. Recent years have seen new varieties such as Jambalaya that produces more pods per stalk. Burgundy that remains edible out to 8 inches, and a Louisiana variety that’s good out to 16 inches.
Well, there’s a variety I’m going to sample in 2023 called the motherland okra. It’s an heirloom variety that supposedly came out of Nigeria in the 1700-1800s and doesn’t look like any okra you’ve ever seen. It’s a very reliable and productive staple there.
My Clemson and burgundy plants in good soil reached heights of 10 feet this year. Fortunately, the plants easily tolerate being bent over to reach the pods in their upper portions. That’s good, because motherland okra plants can reach 15 feet. On top of that, the leaves are edible and grow to elephant ear size! In Africa, the leaves are traditionally made into soup.
For those concerned about trying a new variety, when Clemson seed packs contain hundreds of seeds, relax. Motherland seed packets come with 10 seeds. The quantity will probably rise, and the cost come down ($6 per packet) as its popularity grown in future years. Seeds are hard to find, and Baker Creek Seeds seems to be the only current source.
The okra pod is gigantic compared to Clemson pods. Though limited to the same size 4-inch as many other okra species, the pods are several times the diameter. It’s like taking 4-5 Clemson pods and putting them all in a new single pod. Google motherland okra to see.
Planting conditions are similar to other varieties.
Used for its healing properties and actually prescribed by Doctors in Africa for women who are bearing children to slow the rate of blood loss and induce labor in some cases. The leaf Okra Soup is called Ngumbo/Ngombo in Native Nigeria, or just Gumbo for us who live in America.