Goodbye Ole Okra

My old lover of hot summers is about to fade as the sunny hours grow fewer and the hot begins to turn toward cold. I am a son of the South, so I love okra, that odd vegetable that fills our summer plates and occasionally takes some space in our soups. Our Louisiana cousins put it in gumbo, and we love it too.

Our regional preferred dish is breaded and fried. I am one of the odd ones who also loves it boiled, leaving it slimy and slick. It chews easy and goes down quick.

One dish my wife prepares that I love is okra and tomatoes boiled together. I’m not sure if it is a dish or a garnish but it is great with peas and cornbread.

By the time the season for okra is almost ended, the stalks are taller than my head and two inches across at the base. They are as high as cornstalks.

Some crops in my garden come and go fast like yellow squash; the vines produce for a while and suddenly die. Cucumbers seem to do the same. My tomatoes produce for months on end. Okra just keeps on going.

One good thing about okra, it produces and then keeps on producing. If you harvest it right, it takes an almost every other day gathering to keep the pods from getting too big. In the hot summer, I’ll hit a lazy streak skipping a few gatherings and some of the pods will get too long and tough. They go in my compost pile and the small tender pods go in our skillet.

Okra loves hot weather. Here in northeast Alabama, we can plant okra all the way to the end of June. I planted mine in June this year. The little ‘half-the-size of a BB seeds’ slowly germinated. In about a week they popped out of the ground and the seedlings looked so small. If not for my experience, I would have doubted them ever having tall stalks with bullet-shaped edible pods.

I get more than food from my garden; I also get deep thoughts. Thoughts about life.

In life, I have planted some spiritual seeds promising a lot of fruit. I hoped to have enough faith to believe that I would see the results and feed my soul and others. I looked at the first signs of germination and wondered in moments of doubt if the seedlings would ever bear fruit. Sometimes I was surprised when after some days of rain from heaven they soon looked vigorous and promising.

I have walked beside people who I tried to encourage in faith and wondered if they would make it to the end of the day. They looked quite tender and weak causing me to doubt. I just kept hoeing the weeds and praying for rain. Some flourished and others faded. The Lord continues to urge me to prepare the ground and sow the seed. It is beyond my paygrade to decide who grows and who dies—I just sow and hoe.

I have looked in the mirror and saw weak as well. I have had days when I wondered if the Lord thought I was worth the trouble. On those self-doubting days, He gives me a vision of Him on the cross telling me I am loved. Then I hear His words, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24 NKJV).

Soon, I will clear out the dried stalks of okra. Its seeds will sleep through the cold winter. Preserved pods will swim in warm soup on cold days.

Then yellow buttercups will announce the arrival of Spring when I will plow and sow again. God will send the warm rays and sweet showers; seeds of okra will germinate and then grow. God starts the process all over again.

I have lived by the seeds others have sown. Their seeds remain in me, while the sowers are gone. Soon my leaves will wilt and fade. My prayer and my hope are the seeds that I have sown will continue to grow after I am gone. God starts the process all over again.

And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29 NKJV).

Keep plowing, sowing, and hoeing—harvest time is coming!

Yours on the Journey,

Harry L. Whitt

8 Replies to “Goodbye Ole Okra”

  1. Harry, I share your love for that vegetable imported from Africa many years ago. How do I love okra? Let me count the ways! My okra rows need daily attention from the gardener, and so the garden of my heart needs daily attention from the Master Gardener (John 15). Blessings, Friend! – Mark Parris

    Liked by 1 person

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