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My Okra Onslaught

ILLUSTRATIONS BY MARILYNNE ROACH
Okra

Once a year I like to make gumbo. One year I thought, “Why not grow my own okra for it?” I ordered the smallest seed packet available. Somehow they sent me their largest packet of seed. “Woohoo!” I thought. “What a bargain.”

I planted a 50-foot row—and got nearly 100 percent germination. That rarely happens. Then, here in Indiana, we got just the right amount of rain and perfect temperatures. The okra grew—and grew—and grew. The rows became 6-foot forests of okra plants. Within weeks, I was coming home from work every night and going right back to work—harvesting sackfuls of okra.

There were no farmers markets at the time, so selling it was not an option. I offered several neighbors sacks of okra. They’d been happy to accept my tomatoes, green beans, blackberries, and squash. But okra? After one sack, all I got was, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Even the rabbits, raccoons, and opossums passed it up. My neighbors thought I was a pest. Now the pests did, as well!

So I boiled, baked, fried, grilled, mashed, froze, and pickled the okra—everything short of baking it in a cake. But the more I ate, the more those plants produced. I even dried and spray painted pods for fall décor!

Frost eventually dealt the plants a deathblow, and they ended up as compost.

That was over 20 years ago. I haven’t grown okra or had one bite of it since.


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