Saving seeds: How to save okra seeds

Today I bring you another seed saving post.  This time around, I’ll talk about saving seeds from okra.  This is one of the easiest seeds to save.  The entire process is to allow the pod to ripen and dry out.  Then break them open to get the seeds.

Typically, okra has to be separated by 1/4 mile or more to stay true to type.  But I know that I have no neighbors that are within that range that are growing okra.  Okra isn’t grown by all that many people in my area.  The seeds should remain viable for up to about 4 years.  When planting them, soaking the seeds overnight can help germination.

Mature okra plants

As winter approaches, it is time to stop harvesting the okra pods to eat and to allow them to ripen on the plant.  Here’s a shot of my mature okra plants.  This year the majority of them ended up about 7 feet tall.  The bottoms of the plants are as big around as a sapling.  That’s just what I’m looking for in my okra plants.  I want big, strong, productive okra plants.  If I noticed a particular plant that produced far fewer pods, I would have marked that plant so I wouldn’t save seeds from it.

Full grown okra seed pod

Once you allow the pods to ripen, they end up about 10″ long.  They will also be fairly thick.  If you squeeze a pod, it doesn’t give under pressure.  They feel really woody.  This is the walls of the pods thickening up and the reason these big pods are not good to eat.

Okra pods for seed

Once we have a really cold night predicted, I decide that it is time to cut the pods.  It won’t hurt the pods to be on the plant, but I’ve had pods start to get soft and mushy by leaving them on the plant into the cold, wet weather.

This is only about half the pods that I left on the plants.  As I’m cutting the pods, I check out the plants to see if they are thick and tall.  I only keep the pods from the plants that are what I consider good specimens. All other pods get ditched.  When they are this size, I don’t throw them into the compost pile because I don’t want them sprouting.  If they sprout, they could flower.  If they flower, their negative traits could be passed to the plants that I grow on purpose.

Okra pods drying

Notice the 2 green pods.  These are all from burgundy okra seeds that I saved last year.  I have one plant that came up looking just like all the others.  The stems are bright red.  The leaves are dark green.  But the pods that it produces are green instead of red.  I’m not sure if I’m going to try to pass on these genetics or not, but since it did produce really well, I may keep them.  I will have to keep them labeled.  I laid the pods out to dry.  It will take about a month or so before they are dry enough to harvest the seeds.

Okra pods splitting

When the pods are dry  enough, they will begin to split like the ones to the right.  If they were left on the plant, these pods would split more and more until the seeds inside fell out.  This would re-seed the okra for next year, of course we want to control where they grow so we pulled the pods.

Okra pod opened

Okra pods have ridges running the length of them.  The pod needs to be split open at each of these ridges.  There are a bunch of seeds in each pod.  Pull open the pods and gather the seeds.

I’ve noticed that the viable seeds are black.  I often find some light-colored seeds, I haven’t had any luck with them so I throw those away.  Gather up all the seeds, put them in a sealed container and store them for next year.  I put them in a zipper bag, write the date it and store it in the beer fridge in the basement.

8 Responses to Saving seeds: How to save okra seeds

  1. Pingback: 2011 Garden Seed Review Part 3 | The Homestead Fritz

  2. thanks for the info. I have just moved back to Alabama after 25 yrs. I have been gardening since I was five with my grandmother. she has now been gone a year and when I moved back I vowed to try. for my first time I have planted a small garden, it feels good, just needed a reminder on how to do a few things,

    • Thanks for commenting.
      I found that Okra is one of those plants that grows REALLY well for us. I don’t plant all that much of it, but once it starts, it just keeps growing.

  3. The Mother in Law

    Have you ever tried removing the seeds while the pod is still green and drying the seeds instead of the whole pod? My dryimg space is limited and I’d like to save a lot of seed for my family — three generations of avid gardeners.

    • I’ve never tried that, but typically seeds have to come from a mature fruit. By leaving it in the pod, it ensures that the pod ripens. I’ve also allowed the pods to dry almost completely on the plant and only cut it off once it was starting to get dry and brittle. Then just cut it open and pull out the seeds.

  4. Thank you for your help; I am drying some large pods but they were picked while pretty green so we’ll see. God bless.

  5. Mother in law. It works but okra produces so much I would dry it out like you would another seed. The problem with doing that is the plants you let the okra grow to long on will reduce producing heavily on the types I have tried. If you have the plan to do that ahead of time just let one plant in the group go to seed early that is one of the healthiest looking ones and get woody while the others still produce that way you don’t have to wait and it isn’t wasting much room after you cut the 3-4 long pods for seeds for next year, that way you can remove Okra and succession plant if your in an urban lot. I grow okra in front of my house as it needs to be picked daily and near the mailbox.

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