I love okra. Any which way. Fried. Pickled. Stewed with tomatoes. Boiled. In gumbo. YUM! As someone who loves okra and who grew up in Louisiana, I was excited to read this article about an okra plant in New Orleans that just won a Guinness World Record. New Orleans resident Jack Sweeney grew the plant, which maxed out at 16.4 feet, beating its rival, a plant in Claremore, Oklahoma that was grown by Linda Compton and only reached 13 feet, 6 inches.
In order to qualify for a Guinness record, the plant had to be alive, and because Sweeney had planted it back in March 2021 and it wasn't going to be measured until Summer 2022, he had to coax the plant to survive after it was already past its prime. He started a campaign to raise the $699 fee for expedited inclusion, and, luckily, neighbors and friends rushed to his aid. He was also able to enlist the help of local experts to inspect his world record claim. Nola.com explains:
Sweeney was instructed by Guinness to seek out qualified local experts to inspect his claim. Via Twitter, Sweeney solicited for a volunteer botanist to preside over Big Okra's taxonomic identification and exacting measurement. Tulane University research professor Josh Lewis swiftly came to his aid.
"I knew Jack from around town," Lewis said, "and saw online that he was looking for help."
Lewis, who specializes in urban forestry and has tons of experience measuring tall plants, was perfect for the task. He brought along David Baker, a fellow Tulane botanist, and environmentalist Mark Schexnayder to preside over the identification and measurement.
On July 13, the three wise men arrived. They verified that the plant was indeed an example of plain green gumbo okra, not some gargantuan exotic species. Then they used a 20-foot tree measuring stick and ladder to gauge the precise height of Big Okra, recording their high-altitude findings with a camera-equipped drone "just to be sure," Lewis said.
Good job, Jack Sweeney! And even though Big Okra is no longer with us, we can celebrate its victory by enjoying some delicious okra dishes. I think I need to find some okra gumbo now!