Okra

I saw okra seed in the Kitazawa seed catalog and it made me chuckle.  I used to think okra was uniquely Southern.  But actually,even though it originated in Africa, it’s a popular vegetable across the globe now.

When our Saudi Arabian intern Jude was here she taught us some delicious Middle Eastern recipes for okra.  And, as its inclusion in the Kitazawa catalog shows, okra is a popular vegetable in Asia as well.

Here in the South okra is usually fried, boiled or cooked in gumbo.   In fact, gumbo gets its name from the African word for okra.  When we were in Haiti I was thrilled to discover that “gumbo” is still their word for okra.

As we have learned, however, there are lots of other delicious ways to prepare it as well.  In Asia it is often pickled or stir-fried.  Pickled okra is hard to beat.

Okra is a great hot-weather crop.  It requires little water and thrives in the sultry heat of summer.  It’s a very fast-growing plant so it has to be picked at least once every other day.  If the pods become too large they get woody.

SAMSUNG

Pretty blossoms too. This is Clemson Spineless, our preferred variety.

Burgundy okra.  It's smaller, and when cooked it is the same as green-pod okra.

Burgundy okra. It’s pretty, but smaller, and when cooked it is the same as green-pod okra.

It’s been 16 months or so since I had any okra (not that I’m counting).  We planted a big garden of it last year, but it was destroyed by deer and we didn’t harvest any.  So the first okra of 2015 is going to be a long-anticipated treat.

 

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26 comments on “Okra

  1. What a beautiful blossom it has … I’ve not eaten much okra, but I may have to change that … your ideas sound delicious.

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    • Bill says:

      I don’t like it boiled. It’s slimy and not very tasty. But every other way I’ve had it is delicious. Mostly down here it’s battered and fried, but there are lots of other ways to enjoy it. The recipes Jude gave us were amazing.

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    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Wow, thanks for all this great info ShoreAcres! I’ll be looking at replanting some more of those Mallow seedlings, instead of just “weeding” them, come Spring. The Slate Juncoes have been all over them today, picking seed: )

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Very interesting. Okra pods are slimy like that when crushed. I’ve never thought of using it to treat burns, but we have plenty of aloe plants around for that. And of course the aloe leaves have that slimy feel when crushed. I seem to recall reading that okra leaves are edible, but we’ve never tried them. The flowers attract ants. They’re the only bloom I’ve ever seen that did that.

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  2. Buffy says:

    Okra is a favorite at our house!

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, Okra is slowly making it’s way onto restaurant menus in the Midwest but they still are mostly on the southern style ones such as Cracker Barrel. Grits are another food item that is slowly catching on in the Midwest. Grits acceptance seem to me moving a little faster than Okra. I’ve seen Okra in the seed catalogs and have thought about giving it a try but don’t really know it would have enough heat to mature in my area zone 5b. I thought Okra was strictly an American plant so it was news to me that it came from Africa and is popular around the world. The more I read about plants the more I realize that most that I’ve always considered weeds are edible. Some I’d have to get pretty hungry to eat but last spring was the first time I ate dandelion leaves. They were a bit bitter but not too bad. I’ll probably try some again this spring. First salad of the year and all. My yard doesn’t have the chemical bathes that all of my neighbors put on their yards so the dandelion greens are safe to eat. Most of my backyard is either dandelions, crab grass, or wild strawberries. It probably drives my neighbors crazy but it’s always green even in drought conditions and chemical free green manure is my garden’s friend.

    Have a great Okra planning day.

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    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Hey Dave, I don’t know if you saw the link I left a few days back, but you can find out ALL the uses for those “weeds” at pfaf.org. Discover just why plants were brought here to N. America from the old country – wherever that may have been (not just because they’re pretty; )

      Liked by 3 people

    • Bill says:

      We enjoy dandelion leaves in our salads and Cherie makes dandelion tea. As Deb suggests, dandelions were actually brought over from Europe by settlers as a food crop. And now we call them weeds.

      I’m surprised that you have Cracker Barrels in Nebraska. I rarely eat at restaurants but when I’m on a long driving trip that’s one of my favorites. Old-style cooking. So good.

      Okra likes hot dry weather. It might grow for you, but growing okra in the north is probably a bit like growing asparagus in the south. The farther north/south you go, the more iffy it becomes.

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  4. Thanks Bill , didn’t know Okra had such a beautiful flower and didn’t realize all the ways you could cook and use it, I might have to give it a try in our garden.

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  5. bobraxton says:

    Okra/lady’s finger is one of the most common vegetables of the South-Asian … The word “okra” is derived from a word “ọ́kụ̀rụ̀” in Igbo
    I read a story of someone preparing a dessert which called for “lady fingers” and this puzzled the cook who went ahead with the recipe, dutifully putting the okra into the dessert dish – unaware of the other meaning of “lady fingers” (a kind of cookie?).

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    • Bill says:

      Interesting. In Saudi Arabia it’s called bamya. I had no idea until recently how widely popular it is. Makes sense since it grows well without irrigation, and is delicious to boot.

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  6. i too am impressed by the lovely flower on okra. Like grits (as Dave said) okra is not really a thing up here in coastal BC. It’s on menus in some restaurants, but not at all common. Some CSA growers include it in their boxes, but I think it’s a novelty thing – kind of like celeriac. Of course, now that I think about it, gumbo isn’t really a common dish here either – we certainly have fish or seafood “stews” but they’re more likely to be chowder, or bouillabaisse. Actually, knowing that gumbo is from the Caribbean, and the french influence there, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that gumbo is bouillabaisse with spice.

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    • Bill says:

      Gumbo is made from whatever you have available, but should always include okra. Most of the time gumbo has shrimp, crab or other Gulf Coast seafood. Sometimes it has andouille sausage.

      Here in the upper-South we don’t make gumbo. The most common way to eat okra here is to fry it. But we’ve enjoyed learning the other ways to eat it.

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  7. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Such a gorgeous flower, Bill!
    Puts me in mind of Hibiscus: )
    Okra: still on my Gotta Try That! list… ; )

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    • Bill says:

      It is a pretty flower. The flowers attract black ants. I’m surprised I got a couple of photos with no ants on the blooms. I’m not sure what they’re eating but I’ve never seen ants on any other blossoms.

      I’m not sure okra would grow well where you are. But you’re welcome to come down this summer and have some here. 🙂

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  8. Sarah says:

    Does anyone have a good pickled okra recipe (or tips for pickling it)? I’ve heard it’s delicious pickled, but when I threw it in last year with other veggies in the crock, the okra pickles were not a hit. Too prickly and hard to chew–though cooked at the same size they were perfectly tasty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • shoreacres says:

      I brought some home from the farmers’ market today that’s delicious. The ingredients are: okra, salt, vinegar, sugar, dill seed, celery seed, garlic and red pepper. There are hotter versions, but this one is just perfect. The okra is crisp and tender, too.

      I’ve developed a pretty good relationship with the gal who does the preserving. I’ll drop her an email and see if she’s willing to share the recipe.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      We have a friend who pickles it, but we haven’t done it ourselves yet. Maybe Linda (Shoreacres) will get a recipe she can share with us. 🙂

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  9. Zambian Lady says:

    It is interesting that others are commenting on the flower. My family, like others in Zambia, grows okra every rain season and I have never heard anyone talk about how beautiful the flower is. I suppose it is because we see it everyday and it is a common sight to us.

    Talking about delicious – I like it cooked in any way and mainly boiled (and very gooey) as this is our traditional way of cooking it. I have actually never seen purpose okra.

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    • Bill says:

      A friend of mine who grew up in Louisiana moved to Africa (I can’t remember which county) and mentioned to his new friends there that he liked okra. So they kept bringing it to him as a gift, but it was always boiled and he’d never had it that way. He told me that he could never bring himself to tell them that he didn’t like okra boiled and he ate so much of it that he almost quit liking okra. 🙂

      Plenty of people here in the Southern States do like it boiled and gooey. I prefer it fried, broiled or in gumbo. But however it’s served, I’m grateful that okra made its way to this continent. 🙂

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  10. Laura says:

    I love okra, and being from Texas, it does extremely well here. You didn’t mention pickled okra, or just plain old olive oil salt and pepper (either whole or sliced). PIckling is so easy, as you don’t have to worry about it getting to soft or mushy, like cucs. Yum, can’t wait for summer

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