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Okra is one of the most delicious vegetables you can grow, and a single okra plant can produce numerous edible pods for you to enjoy all summer long. But do deer eat okra, or are your okra plants safe from these beautiful garden visitors?
What Is Okra?
If you’ve never come across okra, this is a spectacular vegetable that deserves a place in any food plot! Okra is technically a fruit, and the part harvested and eaten is the light green seed pods.
Okra plants can grow up to 6 feet tall. They have beautiful large white flowers that turn into seed pods pointing upwards from the stem.
Also known as lady’s fingers, okra pods are long and slender and are filled with tiny white seeds. They grow well in hot, humid climates, and are widely eaten in Africa, Asia, and South America.
Many people find okra off-putting due to its slimy texture, but the extent of this can be minimized by choosing the correct cooking technique. Okra pods roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper are a gourmet delight that everyone should try!
Do Deer Eat Okra?
Okra pods grow upwards and outwards from the plant and are easy for deer to pick off and eat. But do deer eat okra, or is your food crop safe from garden visitors?
Not all deer will eat okra, but some will develop a taste for the seed pods. The texture of okra pods is somewhat slimy, and it may be that deer – and humans! – find this off-putting.
However, okra pods are safe for deer to eat and easy to digest. Deer will seek out anything to eat when natural food sources are scarce, and your okra crop may turn into an all-you-can-eat buffet for hungry deer.
Raw okra pods contain 90% water, which makes them attractive to deer during periods of drought and hot weather. You will find that the tastes of deer vary throughout the year to account for seasonal changes, and okra and other fruits become much more tantalizing in the summer months.
Will Deer Eat Okra Plants?
Deer can and will eat all parts of the okra plant. The flavor of okra leaves and stems is mild and grass-like and can easily be digested by deer.
Okra is not a natural foodstuff of deer, if you are lucky they may overlook your okra plants in favor of their favorite trees, shrubs, and grasses. However, if your local deer population develops a taste for okra, they will destroy the crop in no time at all.
The leaves of okra are also safe for humans to eat and can be eaten raw or cooked in the same way as spinach.
How Do You Keep Deer From Eating Okra?
The best way to protect food crops such as okra from deer is by erecting a physical barrier such as a mesh fence or electric wire. This could either be around your entire yard, or smaller barriers around crops that deer enjoy eating.
Wild deer are nervous creatures and can be deterred using audio deterrents such as wind chimes. They do quickly get used to new sounds, but it can be enough to keep them at bay during the okra harvesting season.
As okra grows on tall plants, it can be difficult to disguise them with a barrier of deer-repellent plants. A good short-term measure can be to erect a barrier of netting supported by wooden poles around the okra until the harvest is finished.
Will Okra Grow Back If a Deer Eats It?
Unfortunately, deer are very partial to the younger shoots of okra plants and can damage a young plant to the point where it will not grow back. Older, more mature plants are more resistant to damage and can recover from the attention of a hungry deer.
Ideally, okra seedlings should be protected with a cloche or netting until they are sturdy enough to withstand any damage.
Verdict: Is Okra Deer Resistant?
While okra is not deer resistant, it is not a primary food source for deer. They can and will eat okra if they are hungry enough, but will commonly shun it in favor of other plants.
If you are growing okra as a food crop, it is a good idea to provide the plants with some protection. A hungry deer can eat a whole okra plant, including the seed pods, in no time at all!