Abelmoschus esculentus & Abelmoschus caillei
In 2021 The Utopian Seed Project grew over 85 varieties of okra and allowed them to intercross in the field. In 2022 they grew out the children of that mix and these are the seeds saved from that planting. Okra has a perfect flower that easily self pollinates, but the hibiscus-like blossom is also big and beautiful and okra patches can be filled with bees and wasps and a whole host of other pollinators (there is even an east coast native “okra bee”, Ptilothrix bombiformis — technically it’s a Rose-Mallow Bee, but they’re equally happy on rose-mallow’s cousin okra!). All this means that okra will readily outcross, with promiscuity reported between 10% and 30%, though in a closely planted, heavily insected field, outcrossing could be even higher. But regardless of the level of outcrossing, this mix of seeds represents massive genetic and varietal diversity.
Potential genetics represented in the mix include (trigger warning: there is a ‘Hitlers’ okra on this list, which is actually said to descend from okra seeds found by American soldiers on plants growing in Hitler’s greenhouse): 007; Alabama Red; Aunt Hettie’s Red; Bear Creek Okra; Beardi; Big Red; Blondy; Bowling Red; Bradford Family Okra; Brandy Red; Bull Dog; Burgundy (aka Red Burgundy); Cajun Jewel; Candle Fire; Catawba Freesman – African Okra; Chatham Red Okra; Cherokee Long Pod; Choppee; Claude Lingerfelt Okra; Clemson Spineless; Dwarf Heirloom; Essoumtem Okra; French Quarter Pink; French Quarter Red; Granddaddy’s Okra; Hill Country Red – Brian Harris; Hire Okra; Hitlers Okra; Hodnett Special Okra; Heavy Hitter; Hoopers Okra; Jimmy T’s; Jing Orange; Kandahar Pendi; Kibbler Family Okra; Kon; Lahague; Langston Longhorn; Little Egypt; Louisiana Green Velvet; Louisiana 16″ Long Pod; Moody Family Okra (A. caillei); Motherland Okra (A. caillei); Mr Bill Big Okra; No.76; Okinawa pink; Old Black Man’s Okra; ORS 2833; ORS 2835; ORS 2844; ORS 2850; ORS 2851; ORS 2853; ORS 2854; ORS 2856; ORS 2860; ORS 2875; ORS 2896; ORS 2898; Puerto Rico Evergreen; Puerto Rico Evergreen Tall; Pusa Makhmali; Pusa Sawani; Quiabo #1; Quiabo #2; Quiabo #3; Rains Okra; Red Okra – Random; Red Okra 14; Red Okra 47; Red Okra 98; Red Pod 52; Red Velvet; Red Wonder; Salmon (F3); Shows Okra; Silver Queen; South Asian Okra; Stewart’s Zeebest; Stubby Okra; Whidby White (?); Whidby White Improved; White Satin; Yalova Akkoy (aka Sultani); Yuma Red Okra.
Note: in 2022 we were surprised to see that Abelmoschus manihot subsp. tetraphyllus (a wild and somewhat distant relative) had crossed into the okra ultracross and was showing up at around 1% of the population. The traits were not great for eating (small spiny pods) and the pods were largely infertile.
Color: Within this mix you’ll find the whole range of okra pod colors, from the palest greens (basically white) through to the dark reds and most things in-between, including a good mix of green pods with red blushing.
Pod Shape: You’ll find all the pod shapes represented in various combinations including, short, stubby, long, thin, chunky, deeply ridged, totally rounded, curly, and superlong.
Plant Height: Expect anything from 1-2 foot dwarf plants up to the 12+ foot giants.
Countries of Origin: Many of these varieties are considered USA heirlooms, but there are also many Asian-origin okras in the mix as well as varieties that came directly from various African countries. ‘Quiabo’ is of Brazilian origin.
We intend this mix of okra to be planted and enjoyed by a wide range of people. Maybe you’re an adventurous home gardener with limited space and really want to have every seed you plant could produce something different. Or maybe you’re a Northern grower who struggles to get a good okra crop. Or maybe you’re an aspiring plant breeder looking to explore the possibilities of this amazingly diverse African crop. Whatever the case, this mix represents a unique chance to plant out a large quantity of different genetics and save seeds from the healthiest survivors. Along the same lines, you could select all the reds into a diverse red okra population, or maybe you have a friend who loves stuffing okra, so you select for all the short fat pods, or you want the least spiny leaves for a green leaf production (a delicious and nutritious vegetable in its own right), or the best-tasting edible oil from the seeds! The sky’s the limit!
We encourage you to select and save seeds based on your own needs and wants — but even just saving seeds from the best plants will begin the process of regional adaptation, and preserving diversity will support the long-term climate resilience of this crop.
Note: By purchasing these seeds, you agree to never attempt to patent or otherwise restrict the use of these seeds or their descendants.
Please note that the pods in the photo above is only representational and provided to give you a general idea about the genetic diversity of the seeds in the packet.
Our current seed stock was grown by Chris Smith of The Utopian Seed Project in North Carolina. In addition to the initial cost of the seed, %25 of the seed sales will go to The Utopian Seed Project. Photo by Chris Smith.
Packet has 50 seeds
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