QUESTION: My okra plants are healthy and growing well. Can I save okra seeds for next year? – Timothy W
ANSWER: If you are interested in saving okra seeds from the species growing in your garden, you need to make sure that the plants are isolated and growing well out of distance of any other okra varieties, otherwise your seeds might end up being hybrids. Okra is pollinated by insects, so if an insect brings pollen from another okra variety to your plants, the seeds may end up having seeds that are hybrids of the two different plants. This can be prevented by only growing one variety of okra in your garden.
If you are growing okra seed pods to eat them, they should be harvested when they are three to five inches long. However, gardeners who are growing okra for seed harvesting need to wait for the seed pods to grow and develop as large as they can before picking. For seed harvesting, allow the seed pods to dry on the vine and begin to crack or split before removing. Once the pods have started to break open, remove them and split or twist them into a bowl or container.
There will be no fleshy materials on the seeds, as you allowed the pods to dry out before harvesting them, so there is no need to wash the seeds prior to storing. However, you should allow them to dry further in the open air for a few days before storing. Once they have had a chance to fully dry, place the seeds into an airtight jar and put them in the refrigerator.
Some okra seeds will remain viable for as many as four years, but other varieties produce seeds that don’t have nearly the same longevity. Either way, it’s best to play it safe and use the collected seeds within the next growing season. For the best results germinating your okra seeds, soak them in water for a day or two before planting, or put them in the freezer overnight the night before planting them to help break the seed wall.