We wish we could provide more details about this lovely okra, which we received from our friend Kris Hubbard of Wildwood Farms in Kentucky. He reports that it comes from the Moody family of Missouri, an African American family whom he was told passed this okra down through their family for generations. Kris has a large collection of seeds, and is unable to provide more information about who he received this seed from or from whom they received the seed before him. We expect if he had received it from the Moody family themselves, he would remember it. We hesitate to bring a seed like this to market without being able to tell its full story, but sadly that is often the case with old heirlooms — and that is what we do believe this okra to be (though we certainly may be wrong).
Okra was almost certainly first brought to this continent by enslaved African people — and the oral tradition of their descendants recounts women braiding seeds of important crops like okra into their hair before the perilous and terrifying journey across the ocean. Mirroring the severing of family ties and ancestral connection forced on African people stolen into slavery, we can't say more about this okra's history other than what we've recounted above, but we still treat it as a sacred ancestral variety and believe it is due the same respect as ancestral varieties with more clear of a provenance. If anyone has more details about 'Moody Family' okra, we would certainly appreciate learning them.
In growing it in 2020 at the Deitrichs' farm in South Jersey, Nate found it to be a beautiful, delicious, and productive okra. Almost every plant was tinged with red, bearing pods shaded red and green. One plant had incredibly large and thick green pods — this hint of diversity is not surprising for an old heirloom — but most plants were quite uniform. The plants were branching to a minor extent — with just one or two pod-producing branches per plant — but mostly they grew single stems loaded with pods which produced for months. The pods are slightly more spiny than modern cultivars like 'Clemson Spineless,' so it makes sense to wear gloves while harvesting. But those spines melt upon exposure to heat, so cooking makes them quite delicious — and the spines are more of an issue at the base of the pod where it connects to the plant anyway, so Nate enjoyed eating raw pods of this variety right in the field, as he does with most every okra (raw okra fresh from the plant is a highly underrated food). We hope you enjoy growing this okra — and that you treat it with the respect and reverence that it duly deserves.
GROWING TIPS: Start indoors around last frost date and transplant when soil warms up, around the same time you would put tomatoes into the ground. Harvest pods before they reach full-size to prevent them from getting woody or fibrous.