I never really understood okra outside it’s role in gumbo. So when I came across them at Wegmans I did a double-take. The cute bright green pods looked so innocent and inviting that I took them home to nurture…in my belly.
Everyone’s first time with okra is the same, you start slicing it and suddenly viscus strings of slime pull from your knife. You think the okra has gone bad, but that’s not the case! That totally normal gooey substance is called mucilage, and it’s the water source for most, if not all, plants. The only time you’ll taste the goo is if you eat them raw. Once cooked, that goo disappears, leaving you with a regular vegetable. But if you ask me, okra that’s battered and deep-fried takes it to a whole new level of YUM!
While not common in American kitchens, okra has culinary roots in other regions of the world—a perfect opportunity to cook new dishes with an open mind to ethnic influence.
AKA: ladies fingers • bhindi • ochre • gumbo
Origin: Africa • South Asian
Plant: Abelmoschus esculentus
Varieties: green • red
About: Okra is a signature ingredient in African, Asian, and Southern-American cooking. It’s often used in stews but can be enjoy like any other vegetable. While its gooey texture can shy consumers away, okra becomes crisp when deep-fried, roasted, or grilled. And with its slew of health benefits, okra will intrigue any wellness junky.
In Season: summer to early fall
Nutrients: antioxidants • fiber • protein • vitamin C & K • magnesium
Benefits: may reduce risk of cancer • decrease inflammation • supports immune system • may lower cholesterol and blood sugar
Substitutes: zucchini • green beans • eggplant
Store: your grocery store’s produce section • local farmer’s market
Selection: Choose bright green okra pods that are firm and at most 4 inches long. Avoid pods with discoloration, bruised, or soft spots.
Cut: Trim off the tip and stem ends then slice crosswise or lengthwise.
Cook: Cook okra as you would any vegetable—stewed, sautéed, fried, or roasted. The notorious slime works as a thickening agent, making thick, luscious soups and stews.
Storage: Keep fresh okra in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towels. Refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Freeze: Blanch the okra by placing the pods (whole or cut) into boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain and cool in ice water. Dry completely before placing in ziplock bags and into the freezer.
Taste & Texture: mild • fibrous • green • vegetal • slimy • crisp when raw • soft when cooked
Suggested Uses: soups & stews • stir-fries • sauces • raw in salads
Fried Okra (via Taste of Home)
Okra Fritters (via Martha Stewart)
Bourbon-Pickled Okra (via Munchies)
Okra Lamb Stew (via Taste Cooking)
Okra Potato Salad (via NYTimes Cooking)
Chicken Okra Gumbo (via Serious Eats)
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What do you know about Okra?