Okra is a fruit which is described as a vegetable for culinary purposes. Its immature pods and seeds are usually cooked but can be eaten raw.
However, many people who grow okra still debate this classification, due in part to its traditional use. To make matters worse, many gardening and cook books list it as a vegetable.
In this article, we will explain why Okra is considered as both a fruit and vegetable. We hope this will help clear up the misunderstanding once and for all. We also included a simple test you can use to tell when Okra pods are ready to use.
What Is The Difference Between A Fruit And a Vegetable?
According to science, a fruit is the seed-bearing part of the plant, developed from the fertilization of a flower. Whereas a vegetable is any other part not formed from this process.
As a result, apples, bananas, tomatoes, and cucumbers are all fruits. While lettuce, dasheen, potatoes, and edible flowers are vegetables. Ok, so I know there are some seedless fruits, but that’s another story altogether.
However, the criteria for fruits and vegetables are different in the culinary field. Here, they are classified based on their flavor, use, and cultural perspective. This difference of opinion even ended up in court in the 1900’s!
Why Is Okra Considered A Vegetable?
Okra is considered a vegetable because of its bland flavor and tendency to become fibrous as it matures. From a culinary standpoint, this is unlike “true” fruits, which are usually tender and has` bold sweet or sour flavors.
While you can eat small quantities of Okra raw, I won’t recommend this. Instead, you can use it to thicken soups and sauces. It also tastes delicious fried!
Why Is Okra Classified As A Fruit?
Okra is a fruit since its pod develops from the mature ovary of a fertilized flower, and contain seeds that can produce new plants.
These criteria also mean that we have misclassified several other fruits over the years. Can you think of any?
Remember, Okra pods aim to protect and distribute seeds. They may not be as tasty or fleshy as other fruits, but they perform their task well.
How To Tell When Okra Is Ready To Use
It’s best to harvest Okra when they are still immature. If you wait too long, they become too fibrous to consume.
To do this, you should pick Okra about 2 days after they emerge when they are around 4 inches long and still tender.
You can confirm its tenderness by pressing the tip with your finger. If it snaps, then the Okra is ready to use. If it bends without breaking, then it’s too late.
Okra, like several other fruits, is considered a vegetable from a culinary point of view. Yet, their scientific classification states otherwise.
However, while this is an awesome factoid, most people are unaware or don’t care what they are. As long as the Okra taste good in their gumbo, they are fine.
1. What Type Of Fruit Is Okra?
Okras are the edible seed pods of the plant of the same nam. They are classified as capsules and split open when dried. While legumes also share these traits, they are not in the same family.
2. Is Okra A Berry?
Okras are not classified as berries, even though they develop similarly. Unlike berries, Okra’s outer skin becomes tougher as they mature, rendering them inedible.
3. Is Okra A Legume?
Okra is not a legume but a member of the Malvaceae family of plants, including cacao, hibiscus, and cotton.
4. What Is Okra’s Scientific Name?
Okra’s scientific names are Abelmoschus Esculentus and Hibiscus esculentus. It is an annual plant in the Malvaceae family, producing edible pods. They are called bhindi, lady’s finger, gumbo, or Ochro.
1. Florabase. Glossary Of Botanical Terms. florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/help/glossary. Accessed January 2023
2. Vegetable Research And Information Center. What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? vric.ucdavis.edu/main/faqs.htm. Accessed January 2023
3. Institute Of Food And Agricultural Sciences. Okra. gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu. Accessed January 2023