In Notes on the State of Virginia, begun in 1781, Jefferson records that the gardens of his native state "yield musk melons, water melons, tomatoes, okra, pomegranates, figs, and the esculent plants of Europe." It wasn't until 1809, however, that he began to plant okra, a native of Africa, on an annual basis at Monticello, generally in late March or early April. In 1817, for instance, he notes its planting in Monticello's Vegetable Garden on April 2 and its arrival at table on July 28, over sixteen weeks later.
A member of the mallow family, okra has large, handsome yellow flowers. The young fruiting pods were often combined with tomatoes for soups and gumbo in Jefferson family recipes. In 1813, Jefferson edged his "square," or plot of tomatoes with okra - a rather unusual combination of plant textures. Cows Horn is an heirloom okra variety.