The species is cultivated as a short season, summer (or dry season) annual, growing to two metres tall. The plant has white to yellow flowers and long, lobed leaves. The fruit is a capsule up to 18cm long, containing numerous seeds.
Okra is a healthy food being high in fibre, vitamin C and folate; it is also high in antioxidants. It is usually consumed whole or sliced, and steamed or stir-fried. The fruit is high in mucilage and it can be used as a food thickener.
Okra is usually grown under drip or furrow irrigation and mulch may be used to improve water use. The harvesting of okra is very labour intensive as the product needs to be handled with care because it can bruise and blacken easily.
World okra production is 8.9 million tonnes and in the same period Australia averages 2,000 tonnes, mainly in the Northern Territory.
The okra industry in Australia is classified as an emerging industry and is covered by the industry association AUSVEG. In the Northern Territory, Asian vegetables, including okra, are also represented by the Northern Territory Farmers Association; and the Northern Territory Vietnamese Horticultural Association (NTVFA).
Facts and figures
- Okra is a member of the mallow family and grows in tropical and warm temperate regions
- Most of the production in Australia occurs in the Northern Territory
- Okra is very labour intensive to harvest and is best marketed immediately
- All Australian okra production is consumed domestically
World okra production has increased steadily over the past decade to reach 8.9 million tonnes in 2016. The main okra producing countries are India (62%), Nigeria (22%), Sudan (3%) and Mali (3%).
Most Australian okra is grown in the Northern Territory. All Northern Territory okra is sold on the domestic market, mainly to major city markets, including Sydney and Melbourne.