OKRA or OCRA
ABELMOSCHUS ESCULENTUS = HIBISCUS ESCULENTUS
ABELMOSCHUS MANIHOT = HIBISCUS MANIHOT
Plants of the genus ABELMOSCHUS are very close to HIBISCUS, they are native to Africa and Asia-Pacific.
Some were still recently classified in the genus Hibiscus.
The Abelmoschus are also related to MALLOW (MALVA), marshmallow, hollyhock from temperate zones; with cotton and rosewood from Oceania (THESPESIA).
The flower is usually quite large, with 5 petals and twisted pre-flowering.
The fruit is an elongated capsule containing numerous seeds
ABELMOSCHUS ESCULENTUS = HIBISCUS ESCULENTUS
There are two main species of GOMBOS or OKRA:
Abelmoschus esculentus, is native to Asia but now cultivated in all tropico-equatorial or subtropical zones and as an annual plant in temperate regions. It is the most widespread and cultivated okra.
Abelmoschus caillei is of African origin, it is more resistant, less demanding of water, but less widespread worldwide.
There are also hybrids of these two plants which are also very similar both in appearance and for their fruit.
Abelmoschus manihot formerly Hibiscus manihot, Pacific cabbage or aibika, bele or pele in the islands of the South Pacific seems to originate from Asia (China or Indo-Malaysia according to botanists).
It is a small tree or shrub cousin to hibiscus or okra with which it shares the same types of well-developed and ornamental flowers.
Its foliage is quite varied depending on the cultivar, 15 to 30 cm wide and with 5 to 8 more or less indented lobes, pale yellow to white flowers with a purple center, which can reach 10 to 12 cm in diameter, elongated capsular fruit (4 to 5 cm) containing the seeds.
Abelmoschus moschatus or musk mallow is native to Asia, it is a plant very close to okra, with yellow flower and capsular fruit filled with small dark brown seeds, with a sweet and persistent smell reminiscent of the original musk .
Musk mallow tolerates a temperate climate with mild winters but grows best in tropical areas.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
All ABELMOSCHUS species contain MUCILAGE in their edible fruits as well as in their flowers, leaves and roots, similar to those of hibiscus or mallow.
They are branched polysaccharides which have a structural relationship with pectic polysaccharides (apple pectin or linseed or plantain): rhamnogalacturonic chain with ramifications by uronic acids and galactose.
They swell on contact with water, become viscous, sticky sometimes gelatinous depending on the amount of water and the method of extraction.
They are natural lubricants, softening and protective of the mucous membranes or the inflamed skin.
OKRA or GOMBO FRUIT
Okra are harvested before maturity, like green vegetables, they contain:
- water, polysaccharides (including mucilages) and a little protein,
- probiotic fibers,
- vitamins: C, K, A, B1 (thiamin) and B9 (folate),
- mineral salts.
Dried fruits contain many seeds rich in edible fat (20 to 40%), average composition:
-Linoleic acid 30%,
- Palmitic acid 30%,
-Oleic acid 29%,
-Stearic acid 5%.
With the presence of gossypol (as in cottonseed oil), a slightly toxic compound that lowers male fertility.
Okra seeds contain about 20% protein, a percentage close to that of soybeans.
OKRA AND PACIFIC CABBAGE LEAVES
Young okra leaves and especially Pacific cabbage leaves are perfectly edible and dietary very by their content in assimilable proteins (5 to 10%), vitamin or provitamin A, calcium and iron (it is the "Island's steak" told me a resident of Vanuatu).
MUCILAGE OF ABELMOSCHUS
The fruits are rich in mucilage and therefore have very interesting emollient and softening properties.
They are used in internal and external inflammatory conditions: abscess, boils, angina, stomatitis, bronchitis and also digestive and hemorrhoidal disorders.
The green fruit of okra, a little overcooked and lightly crushed, gives a sticky and mucilaginous porridge well known in the West Indies to soothe gastrointestinal disorders secondary to alcohol abuse; the slightly laxative effect is attenuated by the antispasmodic properties.
The fruit of okra, well cooked, also helps to reduce burns of the esophagus (esophagitis) following the rise of gastric juice (hiatus hernia) or after radiotherapy of the chest.
GOMBOS OR OKRA GREEN VEGETABLES
These immature fruits are easy to digest, are generally grown without pesticides, and provide an interesting vitamin and protein supplement.
They are generally consumed after a very short cooking in water which does not destroy the vitamins.
Okra seeds are edible after cooking, they provide lipids and assimilable proteins.
They can be lightly toasted (roasted) to obtain a coffee substitute (but without caffeine !!).
The stems of abelmoschus contain long coarse fibers that can be used after a treatment of the stems similar to that of flax or hemp.
CULTIVATION OF ABELMOSCHUS, OKRA, GOMBO, PACIFIC CABBAGE
PACIFIC CABBAGE or AIBIKA
In the tropics, Pacific cabbage is mainly propagated by cuttings, so there are many clones with very different leaf morphology.
At the start of the wet season, fragments of a branch of 50 cm with several buds are planted by sinking them halfway into the ground.
Vegetation recovery takes 2 to 3 weeks and growth is rapid.
You can also use seeds that germinate in two weeks and that you sow in place or in seedlings.
Cultivation can be intensive and commercial, one foot every 30-100cm, rows spaced a meter apart, or on the contrary well spaced leaving the shrub space to develop.
In countries close to the equator, vegetation is almost permanent and leaves can be harvested all year round.
In areas with a slightly cold winter, pacific cabbage is grown as an annual plant from the seeds.
Yields depend on the quality of the soil and the amendments: between 5 and 40 t of leaves per hectare per year.
The cabbage is an interesting shrub to grow in a pleasure garden or a tropical vegetable garden for its appearance, its flowers and its edible leaves, if left to develop it can reach several meters high.
GOMBO OR OKRA
Abelmoschus esculentus and caillei are resistant plants that are tolerant of soil quality.
They can develop and give a harvest even on land poor in humus and in semi-arid zones.
The propagation is done by seeds, the stems can reach 2 meters high, the harvest of immature fruits is done regularly (every 3 to 4 days) which allows to prolong the period of fruiting.
Green fruits can be kept for 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
In temperate or sub-tropical zones with cold winters they okra is annual, in warm regions it is kept in place for one or two seasons.
Prolonged and recurrent contact of leaves and stems may cause skin irritation.
OKRA, GOMBO AND PACIFIC CABBAGE with edible and dietetic fruits and leaves
Okra or Gombo and Pacific cabbage leaves are interesting green vegetables in tropical regions for their content in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and emollient and softening mucilage.
The seeds are edible after cooking, they are oleaginous and nourishing but contain anti-fertilizer gossypol.
They are edible, oleaginous and textile plants that are easy to grow and have decorative flowers.
Copyright 2020: Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel