Okra and Bitter Gourd

This year as you know I have been experimenting with my new unheated greenhouse. I have never used a greenhouse so this was a first for me. As spring began I thought that the greenhouse will be perfect to house the tomato and chilli plants this year. Well, we started off with the best of intentions but we turned a corner when June began a long heat wave which saw a mass migration of all the tomato and chilli plants out of the greenhouse and onto the patio.

What I hadn’t expected was that the seeds of okra and bitter gourds would germinate and absolutely flourish!

Okra is a vegetable with fuzzy edible green pods and seeds. When sliced for cooking it will initially have a sticky consistency but this will fade as it cooks further, especially with the addition of an acidic ingredient like lemon or lime juice, tomatoes or mango powder called amchur as Chetna has done in the recipe link below.

I planted the okra seeds in small pots in the greenhouse in late spring and the resulting seedlings seemed to feel at home in the soaring temperatures of early summer.

Young okra plants

As summer progressed there were beautiful striking yellow flowers with little okra forming after the blooms.

Yellow flowers followed by little okra on the plants

It wasn’t long before these okra were ready to be harvested. I discovered that these vegetables grow very quickly from the stage when they are just forming to when they are ready to be picked,  just 2-3 days.

Okra harvested and heading to my kitchen!

Bitter gourds are as their name describes them … bitter and are an acquired taste, definitely not for the faint hearted! They have jagged ridges and an inner softer cavity with pulp and seeds in them.

To my surprise the bitter gourd seeds which I planted in late spring in the greenhouse germinated after a couple of weeks. The young seedlings were very reluctant to leave the greenhouse and its warmth. These bitter gourd plants are creepers and therefore needed support to climb. We supplied this in the form of a couple of canes with a web made by interweaving some hessian string, which did the trick.

Bitter gourd plants trailing happily on the handmade support given

The flowers were next and they are very pretty little yellow ones too. Not entirely sure if the bees would do their business in this hot greenhouse, we hand pollinated the bitter gourd flowers with a clean earbud!

Pretty bitter gourd flowers

Little did we expect this but a few weeks later hidden amongst the foliage were two little bitter gourds! What a delightful and unexpected find, as we didn’t see them till then.

Two bitter gourds, one on either side of the trellis in the picture
Bitter gourd forming with its characteristic spikes

Well, the heat that the tomato and chilli plants rejected has certainly been welcomed by my okra and bitter gourds this summer. A definite on my list of vegetables to grow next year!

Now if you’d like to know how to cook okra and bitter gourd check out the links below for the recipes by Chetna Makan:

Will you be adventurous enough to try these vegetables?

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