What can you tell me about producing okra for value-added processing, particularly pickling?
Answer: Okra is a warm-season vegetable plant in the hibiscus family. It requires rich, loamy soil and a lot of nitrogen. Since it is harvested over a long period of time, it is important to manage weeds effectively throughout the season. VarietiesThe following are some popular okra varieties recommended by North Carolina State University.Clemson Spineless is a uniform spineless variety with medium dark green, angular pods. It requires 55 to 58 days from seeding to maturity.Emerald is a spineless variety with dark green, smooth, round pods. It requires 58 to 60 days from seeding to maturity.Lee is a spineless variety with deep bright green, very straight angular pods. The plant is a semi-dwarf type.Annie Oakley is a hybrid, spineless variety with bright green, angular pods. It requires 53 to 55 days from seeding to maturity.Prelude (PVP) is a new, open pollinated, spineless variety with very dark, glossy, green fluted pods. It can be harvested when pods are ? to ? inches longer and still remain tender. It requires 50 to 55 days from seed and generally yields better than Clemson Spineless.Value-Added ProcessingThe University of Florida has developed a web page for canning and pickling vegetables, available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_canning_food. If you have not pickled okra before, this would be a good place to start. Once you have developed a recipe and processing system, the next step in starting a home-based or small food-processing business is to investigate the cottage food laws in your state. Contact your state department of agriculture to learn more.The next step in this process is to develop a business plan and profit and loss statement. The U.S. Small Business Administration has produced a useful fact sheet, titled Starting a Home-Based Food Production Business: Making Your Culinary Hobby Your Job, which will help walk you through the steps that you need to take to start a home-based food business. It is available at www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/starting-home-based-food-production-business-.