An attractive fall wreath starts with a disliked vegetable

You don't have to like to eat okra to find it useful. Okra has beautiful flowers, and its dried pods are great in crafts, especially on fall wreaths.

Courtesy of Fairegarden blog
Okra isn't a universally popular vegetable, but its dried pods make a good-looking fall wreath.
Courtesy of Helen Yoest
Many gardeners in hot climates believe that okra is worth growing as an ornamental plant, because of its beautiful flowers.

Since I'm from the South, you might think I’d like the taste of okra. But you’d be wrong. Southerners aren't necessarily born with a gene to let okra slide down their throats with ease, and like it. I suppose it’s an acquired taste, but my view is, why bother?

On several occasions, feeling as though I wasn’t worthy of my Southern roots, I would try okra again -- only to be reminded why I don’t like okra. Gag me with a spoon. Shiver. Pass me an oyster any day, but don’t pass the okra.

I’ve tried okra in stews, pickled, and fried. Other than okra, I can’t think of a single food I don’t like fried -- pickles, Snickers, Oreos, Coke, Twinkies, butter -- you know, the usual stuff -- and I might even like fried ants, but I’ll wait on that until I absolutely have to.

If the day comes when my diet must rely on ants, say, after some nuclear wintering perhaps, I’ll eat ants first and trade my okra pods for a memory of the North Carolina State Fair, where I could eat my way from one end of the fairgrounds to the other.

In addition to the fair food, I’ve eaten other stuff I’m not particularly proud of, mostly animal body parts Northerners ship down South, but no sirree bob, I will not eat okra. I’d rather eat roadkill.

Non-culinary uses for okra

With that attitude, this may come as a surprise to you -- but I grow okra.

Now there's a difference between me and someone who doesn't eat but does grow tomatoes, for instance. A tomato isn’t much good for anything other than eating, so there's no reason to grow tomatoes if you aren't going to eat them.

Okra, on the other hand, has a beautiful flower [see second photo above; click on arrow at right base of first photo] and pods worthy of fulfilling a crafty fix.

The pods are interesting looking. Very architectural. They can be used in their natural form or painted fall or Christmas colors and used as decorations. Fill a bowl, make "fingernails" with them to complete your Halloween costume, or add to a Christmas garland.

An okra-pod fall wreath

My friend Frances, author of the Fairegarden blog, wrote a nice how-to piece on making an okra pod wreath. And in case you're wondering, she, too, won’t let okra pass her lips. Sorry, Frances, if I outed you.

Okra pods mature just in time for adorning the door with a fall wreath. I plan to follow Frances’ advice and make one of my own. Okra makes the perfect statement to welcome guests for the fall season. It may also warn visitors that okra is welcome, but only as a trophy on the front door.

Come visit the fair: For those of you fortunate enough to be in striking distance of this year’s N.C. State Fair, Oct. 13-23, I hope to see you there. On Sunday, Oct. 16, at 1 p.m., I’ll be giving a workshop on how to make terrariums.

If you miss that, but are at the fair, you’ll know me as the one wearing an okra garland in my hair, while eating the notable all-in-one breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert food -- chocolate-covered bacon.


Helen Yoest lives in North Carolina and writes about Gardening With Confidence. She's a garden writer, speaker, and garden coach. She's also a field editor for Better Homes and Gardens and Country Gardens magazines and serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum. You can follow Helen on Twitter and Facebook. To read more by Helen here at Diggin' It, click here.

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