The Real Radiant Okra

The Gardenist

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Tuesday's announcement about Pantone replacing Radiant Orchid with 'Radiant Okra' may have been an April Fool's day joke... but I'm just excited to see this underappreciated plant getting a little love. If you're contemplating what to grow in the garden this summer — and looking for something beautiful and edible — then maybe it's time for you to meet the real Radiant Okra.

About five years ago I planted Okra in my garden for the first time. I try new things every season, just looking to learn something new. This post — complete with recipes, craft projects and my own discoveries — was born out of that first experience. I've since become an ardent okra advocate, not because I think it is the tastiest thing around, but rather because it is easy to grow, it is really pest free, it is quite pretty, and even if you don't like to eat it, there are plenty of other great uses.

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Okra is far more ornamental than you might think. I would probably not plant it in my protected veg garden again. It doesn't need the fence (in my experience, rabbits and such did not bother it) and the value of its attractiveness can be put to use in so many other more obvious places. Standard okra varieties tend to have showy creamy colored hibiscus-like flowers on sturdy stalks that are great for a mid to back of the border plant or even the center of a container planting. But rarer varieties are even more special, like Pink okra (above), with straight-from-the-tropics looking blooms that give way to cute bite-sized pods.

I used my pods in floral arrangements (both fresh and dried) — they would be perfect for getting that literal touch of radiant okra shades of green. And check out Red Okra — can you imagine using those in a flower arrangement? Wow!

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If you grow them this summer and then dry them right away, you should be able to put together a few okra crafts before the end-of-year holidays. I dried mine by stringing them together and hanging them in a warm spot. Witches' fingers for Halloween are a personal favorite, but you might also try these tree ornaments.

I haven't found a favorite cooked okra recipe (if you have one please share) but I am partial to a good pickled okra, served as a garnish for bloody mary. It is full of B12 — so good for many morning-after ailments.

Do you grow okra? How are you getting along?

(Image credits: Rich under CC BY 2.0; Baker Creek Seeds; Olde Baggs and Stuffed Shirts)

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