Okra

Although okra is technically a fruit, it is usually treated as a vegetable. It is a warm-season plant, growing best in hot and humid climates. It is native to Ethiopia. It has a beautiful flower but it does not last long.

The okra pods, sometimes called lady’s fingers due to their long, slender, tubelike shape, are filled with tiny white seeds.  The liquid in the pod is quite mucilagenous, often characterized as being slimy, which is why many people either hate it or like it.  Okra has a mild, almost grassy flavor that is uniquely okra. While it’s sometimes compared to the taste of eggplant or green beans, the texture gets more attention.

Okra needs full sun and will grow in most soils, though it performs best in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.  Okra plants are tall.  They can easily grow to more than six feet!  The first harvest will be ready about 2 months after planting. Harvest the okra when it’s about 2 to 3 inches long. Harvest it every other day.  Cut the stem just above the cap with a knife or scissors; if the stem is too hard to cut, the pod is probably too old and should be tossed.

Wear gloves and long sleeves when cutting the okra because most varieties are covered with tiny spines that will irritate your skin, unless you have a spineless variety. Do not worry: this irritation will not happen when you eat them.

Okra can be cooked in a variety of ways such as roasting, frying, grilling, sauteeing, and pan-frying. It is commonly used in soups and stews. In some Caribbean regions okra is breaded and deep-fried while in other cuisines it is pickled. Perhaps most well known is using okra pods as a thickener in gumbo (the result of the “sliminess”). Gumbo is popular in the southern United States, parts of Africa and the Middle East, the Caribbean, and South America.  The young leaves can also be used in salads.

You will need to rinse and pat okra pods dry before cutting or slicing. Okra can be cut into rounds, sliced lengthwise, or cut diagonally. Of course, you can always opt to leave it whole.

Okra can be stored in your refrigerator’s vegetable compartment in paper bags for up to four days. You can also wrap it loosely in plastic. When you’re ready to prepare it for cooking, remove it from the fridge and bring it up to room temperature. This will reduce the amount of moisture released from cooking. You can freeze okra for up to a year. To freeze, wash and stem the pods, blanch in boiling water for a few minutes, dunk them in an ice water bath, chop, and flash freeze before packing in freezer bags. I have not done the blanching, but just put the whole pods in a freezer bag.

 

Resources:

Benefits and Uses of Okra

The Spruce Eats

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

photo of pods:      https://gardenerspath.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/51pNJW3as2BL-1.jpg

photo of flower:   https://gardenerspath.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/How-to-Grow-Okra-in-Northern-and-Southern-Climates.jpg

website source of photos:  https://gardenerspath.com/plants/vegetables/growing-okra/

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