Okra are absolutely new to me in the kitchen. I’ve already tried them in Turkey a couple of years ago and was super thrilled. However, I just recently discovered the joy of cooking with them. The beautiful pods are a great learning object. Since I’m so happy to have the chance to discover those fluffy veggies, I want to share my newly gained knowledge with you. That’s why I’m dedicating this week’s TOW to the wonderful okras.
The annual plant of the mallow family produces pretty flowers before the capsule (often falsely referred to as a pod) develops. In addition to the Latin designation Abelmoschus esculentus, okras have many more names. I prefer ladies’ fingers as this term actually describes how the capsules look: long (about 1.5” to 6”) and thin. Other features that have little to do with ladies’ hands are the pentagonal cross-section, the green to red-violet tint, and tiny hairs which cover the entire skin. Inside they have whitish meat and edible seeds. Fun fact: ripe okras, if not harvested, burst and fire their seeds into the environment.
ORIGIN I SEASON
Okras are among the oldest vegetables and originated from East Africa. Today, they are also cultivated throughout America, the Mediterranean and India. Due to the different growing areas, you’ll find imported okras year-round. In the South, including Tennessee, the high season is reached in August.
The taste of okras is mild, slightly tangy and reminds of green beans. The preparation options are diverse:
When cooked, Okras secrete a slimy substance, which is helpful for thickening specific kind of dishes. If you want to avoid the slim, you can blanch the pods (I prefer to use the word pod instead of capsule) in vinegar water for a few minutes or leave them raw and unprocessed in cold lemon water before cooking for one or two hours.
Certain okra dishes are known around the world. One example is Gumbo, which is really popular in the South: a thick fish soup with seafood, meat and, among other vegetables, okras.
Okras are a great addition to my vegetable repertoire. Their delicate taste combines well with various dishes such as pancakes, quiche, etc. I am particularly interested in the research of the “slime”, which is why we will soon prepare a gumbo. The fluffy, raw pods will also be the star on one of my veggie plates soon, because I imagine that they go just wonderful with creamy dips and different kinds of herbs. Should you have a favorite okra dish that you want to tell us about, don’t hesitate: the GBC social media channels are as always open for you to share your thoughts and recipes!