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physiological effects and in hens are believed to suppress egg laying. However, the fact that some okra plants had only low quantities (the overall range was 0.26-5.59 percent) suggests that the problem might be bred out. These unusual fatty acids are easily removed by heating the oil during processing, but having none to start with would surely be better.


Basic Studies There are undoubtedly many fascinating physiologic and genetic features of the plant to investigate. Here are three that come to mind:

  • Ploidy Okra has a high number of chromosomes (2n=130) and behaves in some instances as a diploid and in others as a tetraploid. It is thought that one genome possibly comes from Abelmoschus tuberculatus (2n=58). Modern techniques could likely go far in sorting out okra’s genetic background and chromosome make up.

  • Hybridization Crossings within the species as well as possible hybrids with okra’s close, interesting, and useful relatives ambrette (Abelmoschus moschatus), kenaf, and roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) could provide fascinating plants with exceptional properties.

  • Okra’s origin Many publications still give the species’ origin as India, but that seems more current usage than scientific assessment. The vast occurrence of primitive types and wild relatives in Africa (especially Ethiopia) indicates okra is almost certainly African, but the lingering doubt should be put to rest by groundwork and DNA testing.

Food Technology

Here, too, are possibilities for fascinating research. Examples include:

  • Okra Tea Okra’s close cousin roselle has been making a name for itself in recent years as a major ingredient in non-caffeinated teas (notably in the United States, where it stars in the popular Red Zinger Tea®). Jamaicans know this okra relative as sorrel and consider it one of the island’s great delicacies, turning it not only into cooling beverages but into famous tarts and jellies as well. It is also a common tea in the Sahel, where it was introduced to provide plant fiber and vitamin C, and has now naturalized. Okras with red calyxes are known and should be tested for the possibility of producing a counterpart.

  • Decaffeinated Coffee Could okra seed be a direct route to a really good caffeine-free beverage? That is something for which a market seems more promising now than ever before, and the possibility deserves at least a look-see.

  • Gum-Free Okra Needed also is a simple test for mucilage content that would allow the germplasm to be screened. Then, pods of known polysaccharide content could be bred. Anyone creating gum-free okra will have given the world a major new crop. Of course, anyone creating



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