The Strange Apothecary

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Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus or Hibiscus esculentus) is a member of the hibiscus family and an African import to the American South.

Okra is an African native plant first grown in Egypt in the 12th century BCE and then throughout North Africa and the Mediterranean. It has since spread throughout the world. Ground okra seeds may have been used (among other things) by Southerners during the blockades of the Civil War as a coffee substitute.

Other Names Bhindi, Gombo, gumbo, Kacang Bendi, Kopi Arab, Ladies Fingers, Ochro, Okoro, Okra, quimbombo, Quimgombo, quingumbo


Okra seeds can be planted about 1/2 inch deep. It also doesn’t like being transplanted, so start in peat pots or direct sow after temperatures have warmed up, or grow it in a container. Okra does not like cold, so don’t put it outdoors until the weather is consistently warm into the evening. Temperatures below 50 degrees will halt growth.

You should allow eight to twelve inches between plants in each direction and ensure they are placed in a sunny spot with good circulation. Place them near the back of the garden, because wide varieties get pretty tall. Plants grow quickly and flowers soon appear followed by buds about 60 days after sprouting.

Keeping pods picked will encourage the plant to keep producing. Keep the bed clear of weeds and mulch deeply but water sparingly.

Companion Planting

Plant okra near peppers as it provides protection to them from sun and wind damage.

Harvesting & Storage

Cut young pods from the plant shortly after they appear. If you wait too long they will get tough. How long is too long depends on the variety. Refer to the instructions that came with your seeds or experiment. 3 inches is a good general rule. Once you start, you’ll need to keep harvesting every two days until the weather gets cold.

Okra can be trimmed, blanched, patted dry and frozen. Before using frozen okra, thaw completely and pat dry. If you fry okra, try slicing and breading it and then freezing it in meal-sized portions for future use. Okra can also be pickled.

Magical Attributes

Okra pods and the mucilaginous gel they contain are used in spells to help “slip” out of a bad situation or to cause negative energy, curseshexes, and unhealthy connections to “slide” right off of you. Use them in sympathetic spells and ritual baths.

Okra wash for uncrossing: Fill a bucket with warm water and break open several okra pods into it. Smash them in your hands (careful, some varieties are prickly) and rub them into the water, saying an appropriate prayer or chant as you do so (Psalm 37 is good).

Let it steep for a while, then squeeze the excess water out of the pods (into the bucket) and discard them.

Then take your bucket and stand in the bathtub. Pour this mixture over your head so that it flows from the top of your head to your feet. Use your hands to move it all over your body in a downward motion, praying or chanting as you do so.

Be careful, this can make the tub slippery. Then wash normally.

Okra contains powerful masculine energy and can be added to achieve balance or to increase masculine energy in a mixture.

Household Use

If your okra gets too tough for eating, dry it and use it to make crafts like you would gourds.

Healing Attributes

Okra is high in fibre. It helps stabilise blood sugar. Its mucilage soothes the digestive tract. It is also cleansing to the colon and encourages the growth of healthy bacteria.

Culinary Use

It is a necessary ingredient in gumbo and is also delicious breaded and fried and pickled. It is also deliciously grilled on skewers over hot coals.

Okra prepared with lemon juice is said to be an effective aphrodisiac. More practically, both are purifying and soothing to the digestive tract.

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