Red lady’s fingers as they are known here in Singapore, was once a novelty when it first appeared in the nurseries about three years ago. Lady’s fingers are more widely known as ‘okra’ in the West. Now, the red okra has become quite common and can be found almost in every community garden in Singapore.
Because of the unfamiliar colour of the fruits, many people thought they were more of ornamental rather than edible. On the plant, the fruits actually look quite decorative. The fruits are, in fact, edible only when they are young. When cooked and the red fruits fade to the usual green when they are exposed to heat.
I personally find red okra tends to turn fibrous more rapidly than the usual green ones. Hence, red okras need to be harvested quite young, when the fruits are still short. Rather than providing rigid measures as an indication of the right time to harvest, I rather let people know the traditional way we use here. All one needs to do is to try to bend the pointed tip of the lady’s finger fruit. When it is still soft and ‘bendable’, the fruits are still tender and hence good for the dinner table. When they become too stiff to bend, the fruits are so-called ‘over-ripe’ or ‘old’ and should not be harvested. They will be too fibrous to eat and some people ‘soften’ these by cooking under prolonged heating by using them in curries.
Below are some pictures of the red okra variety F696 from Known You Seeds. The description of this variety from the website is given below:
“This attractive-looking red okra is about 13 g in weight, 11 x 1.8 cm diameters, with some spines, and five angles. It can usually be picked around 46 days from sowing. The red color may fade away when cooked and becomes pale green.”
However, I harvested these fruits the last time when they were around 8 cm. My family finds the fruits quite fibrous when they were longer. They can be harvested quite quickly – about 4 to 6 days after the flowers fade.