Okra [Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench] is an annual fruit vegetable crop propagated through seed and commonly grown commercially in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. It is a traditional crop in South Africa, which requires relatively low agronomic inputs, but can contribute substantially to sustainable agricultural production and productivity. It is also grown in warmer temperate regions of the Mediterranean region. This species is under-exploited and has the potential of contributing towards food, nutritional and health security for the alarmingly growing population. It could also potentially make a vital contribution to income generation and poverty alleviation. Okra is a nutritious fruit vegetable in the family Malvaceae. The immature fruit are consumed in small quantities in developing countries in the world, but the crop is rarely produced in some areas of South Africa. The biological functions of mucilage within the plant includes aiding water storage, decreases diffusion in plants, aids in seed dispersal and germination, and acts as a membrane thickener and food reserve. It contains proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins that play a substantial role in human health and nutritional security. Consumption of the young and green immature okra fruit can be in different forms such as boiled, fried or cooked. Okra seeds contain about 20% protein and 20% oil. The seeds can be dried and the dried seeds are a nutritious material that can be used to prepare vegetable curds or roasted and ground to be used as a coffee additive or substitute. Moreover, okra leaves can also be used as animal feed. In a similar manner, the green leaf buds and flowers are also edible to animals. Okra fruit have been found to also have a medical application as a plasma replacement or blood volume expander.
Okra plants and fruit in the field: