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In The Vegetable Patch: All American Okra 'Cajun Delight'

by Nel Newman

Long thought a delicacy restricted to the South, okra has come of age with vigorous plants that make lots of tasty okra all summer long anywhere in the US and well into Canada. An All America selection for 1997, 'Cajun Delight' okra has good-looking, dark green pods that start bearing early and stay tender throughout the season.

Hybrid Cajun Delight makes lots of okra, often double what you could grow from an open pollinated variety. And if you think okra's too slimy to consider, or that fried okra has too many calories, grow this one and change your attitude. The pods have a mild taste, less fiber than other okras, and grill up great. Marinate them in lemon or lime juice and add to vegetable kabobs for crispy skins and creamy insides that'll make anyone a believer in this delicious vegetable.

Plant okra seed in full sun at the same time you plant hot peppers. Soak the seed for six hours or more in warm water, then plant two seeds every six inches. Keep the seedbed moist for about one week. Once up and growing, you'll be impressed with this okra's speed and beauty.

These plants make a tall open canopy just in time to shade a part of the garden on summer's hottest days. The shade is definitely dense enough to sit under, and no weeds will trouble you there, either, so spread a blanket and make yourself comfortable.

The flowers, hundreds of them from just a few plants, fit right into any border, edible or not. When they bloom, you'll recognize this plant for what it is: a remarkably striking, edible relative of Hibiscus. Unusually tall for annuals, the four foot canopy holds warm yellow blossoms marked with deep red throats, often up to three inches wide. Their dark stamens contrast dramatically with the light petals and the fully open trumpets attract bees nonstop.

If you don't like the pods, cut them off as they form and flowers will continue until frost. Be sure to dry and paint some of the pods for decorating.



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