Origin: Korea (via North Carolina)
Improvement status: Landrace
Seeds per packet: ~15
Germination tested 12/2020: 68%
Life cycle: Annual or tender perennial
Abelmoschus manihot is a close relative of okra grown primarily for its nutritious and delicious greens. We got this seed from our friend Zach Elfers, who got from Yanna Fishman in Union City, North Carolina. This strain traces back to a Holocaust survivor named Agnes Adler, who received the seeds from a Korean patient at a mental hospital where she worked. He did not speak English well, but when Agnes asked his daughter to translate the name of this plant, she was told it is "Korean silk-flower." "Aibika" is the name used in New Guinea for this globally popular mallow, and it has somehow become the common name for this species in English, according to most sources. Abelmoschus manihot can produce an astounding 150 tons of leaves per acre, making it perhaps the most productive leaf crop on earth (an excellent, highly productive, enormous cabbage might yield 50 tons per acre).
Native to southeast Asia, it is now widely grown in tropical regions around the world, particularly from Africa to the Pacific Islands. It is cultivated primarily as a leaf vegetable, but the young flower buds are also eaten. The leaves are edible raw, or steamed, boiled, baked, stir-fried, etc. They are flavorful and mucilaginous, with thickening properties much like okra in soup. They are also highly nutritious, rich in vitamins and minerals. There's some talk about the pods being made into flour. In Japan and Korea the roots of Abelmoschus manihot are used in a special traditional paper-making process. The stalks may also be used for fiber, but this is less common among cultivated varieties.
There's a great deal of diversity of forms in this species, with leaves ranging from round or heart-shaped, to maple-like, to spindly and star-shaped like cannabis. We are looking forward to trying out more diversity in future years. It makes attractive, large, yellowish flowers reminiscent of okra flowers and other hibiscus cousins. Even if not eaten, this plant has immense ornamental value. It grows very easily and readily from seed. It also flowers profusely and sets prolific amounts of seed. Recommended especially for lovers of okra.
NOTE: Photo attached is a public domain photo of this species, but not this particular variety. We are working to get a photo of this one and will upload as soon as we can.
GROWING TIPS: Very easy to grow. If grown as a vegetable crop, plants should be spaced at least two feet apart or more so they have plenty of room to grow large.