Okra characteristics, uses and composition


Common English Name: okra, okro, gumbo, lady’s fingers

Common names in other languages:

  • Catalan / Català: ocra, gombo, gumbo, ocro
  • Galician / Galego: quiabo
  • Portuguese / Português: quiabo
  • Basque / Euskara: okra
  • Italian / Italiano: gombo
  • Romanian / Română: Okra
  • French / Français: gombo
  • German / Deutsch: Okra, GemüseEibisch, bamya
  • Polish/ Polski: róża chińska
  • Dutch /Nederlands: Okra
  • Norwegian /Norsk bokmål: Okra
  • Finnish /Suomi: Okra
  • Swedish /Svenska: Okra
  • Turkish / Türkçe: bamya
  • Русский / Russian: окра

Scientific name: Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench.

Other taxonomic names:

Hibiscus esculentus L.

Hibiscus longifolius Willd.

Family: Malvaceae

Used parts of okra: Leaves, fruits, seeds and roots.

Origin of okra

It is believed that okra is native to North Africa and was brought to the US three centuries ago through the African slave trade. Its exact origin is focused on Abyssinia, comprising present-day Ethiopia, Eritrea mountains and highlands of eastern Sudan.

Habitat: is a plant of tropical and temperate regions, very resistant to heat, drought and poor soils. The major global producers are India, Sudan and Iraq.

Distribution: Important vegetable in the diet of tropical countries. Popular among the populations of Cameroon, Ghana, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

Description of okra

okra flowers and leavesbotanical illustration of an upper branch of Okra. Branch (1), divided leaves (2) Flower calycles (3) and flower (4).

Okra belongs to the Malvaceae family, the same family that cotton (Gossypium spp.) or hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.) belong. Its growth cycle is 90-100 days. It is a herbaceous plant with woody stem (sometimes with reddish tones), erect and very branched. Numerous short twigs attached to the stem are distinguished.

Okra can reach up to 3 meters high, although it usually measures just over 1 meter.

Its leaves can have different shapes, even on the same plant. These are stalked heart-shaped., large, with thick limb and dark green on top and gray on the bottom. Basal leaves are almost entire, while the upper ones present divided lobes (lobes 4 to 7) with toothed margins.

Okra flowers are solitary and showy, 4-8cm. in diameter, arising from the axils of the leaves join to the stem by a floral stalk 2-2,5cm. They are protected by a calycle, which has between 7 and 12 teeth. Calyx consists of 5 petals white or yellow with red or purple spots on the base. Flowers are hermaphrodite. They bloom from July to September.

Okra fruit is a capsule, dehiscent, elongated, straight or curved, 10-30cm. long per 1-4cm. wide, green yellow or green, sometimes purple or white. Its seeds are dark brown.


Okra as edible food

Okra in an European market stallOkra in an European market stall

What parts of okra can be eaten?

Okra leaves, buds, flowers and chalices can be eaten cooked as a vegetable. The unripe pod, known as okra, when cooked, exudes mucilage. It is abundantly consumed.

It can be prepared boiled, steamed or braised and curryes. It is rich in iron, calcium and beta carotene. Overripe fruits are fibrous and unpalatable. In local markets, where okra consumption is common, you can find dried okra.

Ripe and cooked seeds are edible and very aromatic. After cooking (Raw okra contains toxic ingredients) are added to purees, in the preparation of tofu and tempeh. They are rich in proteins and oils.

Okra root is also edible, but it is very stringy and unpleasant to taste.

Other edible properties of okra

  • Seasoning: the leaves can be dried, powdered and stored for later use as flavoring.
  • Thickener: Because of its content in pectin fiber, it is used as a thickener for soups, stews and sauces.
  • Coffee substitute: The roasted seeds are used to prepare a replacement drink of coffee without caffeine, with appreciated flavor and aroma.
  • Okra oil: Seeds contain up to 22% edible oil, so they can be used for extracting oil. Okra oil is rich in Omega 9 oleic acid and palmitic acid.

* More information on okra recipes.

Okra as a curative plant

All parts of the plant have medicinal properties. The fruit is demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic and emollient. The roots and leaves are vulnerary. The seeds were formerly used as stimulant and antispasmodic.

Okra for feeding animals

Used for livestock feed because it is high in protein (seeds found inside the fruit). However, the seeds are rich in gossypol, a pigment that can be toxic if ingested in large quantities by livestock.

Other uses of okra

Plant fiber can be used to make paper and fishing nets.

Composition of Okra

Nutritional composition of Okra per 100 g.



Calories (kcal.)


Carbohydrates (g.)


Protein (g.)


Fat (g.)


Fiber (g.)


Vitamin C(mg.)


Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) (mg.)


Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) (mg.)


Vitamin B3 (Niacin) (mg.)


Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) (mg.)


Vitamina B9 (Folic acid -) Folates (mcg.)


Vitamin A (UI)


Vitamina E (mcg. eq. retinol)


Calcium (mg.)


Magnesium (mg.)


Phosphorus (mg.)


Sodium (mg.)


Potassium (mg.)


Iron (mg.)


Zinc (mg.)


Copper (mg.)


Selenium (mcg.)


Water (g.)


what is okra good for?

Because of its composition, okra is a vegetable rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and flavonoids beneficial for cardiovascular health. It has antioxidant, laxative and diuretic properties.

It is suitable in any balanced diet for healthy fiber intake.

It is also recommended for weight loss plans, people with hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol.

Attention !! For its content in oxalates, you should boil okra before cooking it (discard the broth) and combine with calcium-rich foods, such as almonds, yogurt or cheese

Botanical classification


Plantae – Plants


Vascular plants



Seed plants


Magnoliophyta or Angiosperm (Flower plants)



or Dicotyledonous








A. esculentus

PUNTO ROJOMore information on okra.

This article was endorsed by Julián Masats - Technical agricultural engineer specialized in horticulture and gardening.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

28 April, 2022

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