Post last updated: July 2nd, 2019
Mr. Harden, the mason bee consultant, asked me if I beat my okra. I raised an eyebrow at such an outrageous suggestion but I wasn’t about to admit to a stranger that okra never makes it past my front teeth. What if he was moonlighting as the Deep South Veggie Police? The last thing on my agenda was being expelled to the frozen north for conduct unbecoming a southerner.
Not wanting to eat okra was only part of my story. The other part included all the wild tales I’d heard about getting out there in the garden every day to pick your okra because, left unpicked, it could grow to the size of a banana within hours.
I pressed my lips together and just looked at him. Confident that he was about to divulge a deep dark secret to the uninitiated, Mr. Harden pressed on. “An old farmer from South Georgia told me about it. When my okra stopped blooming, I got out there with a stick and beat it to shreds.”
My other eyebrow shot up. Looking like a cartoon character, I asked him a few questions but my feeble mind can’t recall what they were. What I do recall is how suspicious I was that he was pulling my leg.
It was late when I returned to my neck of the woods but I fired up my computer and punched in “beating the okra.” Brenda Beust Smith, The Lazy Gardener with the Houston Chronicle, beats up most of her garden – roses, dogwoods, wisteria, bougainvillea. I was amazed.
The science behind whupping up on your okra involves traumatizing your okra enough for it to produce traumatin, a plant hormone produced in response to a wound. The beating stimulates new growth and flower buds.
I experienced my own trauma in the acquisition of these photos. My okra was not photo-worthy and I wound up in the vegetable garden of Evie’s boss to take photos. It was hard to focus on my task with Evie screeching about mosquitoes biting her as she jumped and flailed like a vaudeville performer. No doubt, this was her aversion to dirt manifesting itself in her imagination because mosquitoes weren’t bothering me.
I was further traumatized at the size of her employer’s okra bushes. I’m not kidding you, they were nine feet tall. It was enough to turn Jack and the Beanstalk into an adult-sized nightmare. The tallest plants in my garden top out at four feet.
I would have snapped a photo of Evie in front of the giant okra trees as proof but she was too busy slapping herself and admonishing, “Hurry up, fool.”
I can’t get any respect.