All About Okra: The Seedpod that Could
If you hate okra you are cheating yourself out of the king of summer vegetables. Okra is an underrated veggie because likely you correlate it’s texture with someone talking to you about it being slimy. That or are clueless on what to do with the lantern-shaped pod besides throw it in gumbo.
Outside the US okra is better known as a “lady finger” and it is valued for being an edible green seedpod that is the member of the hibiscus family. Seeing these babies in a garden may have you swooning over okra in no time. But, if you aren’t near an okra garden (anyone?…anyone?) maybe I can win you over with its magnificent flavor. Okra is actually a wonderful, crisp vegetable that is available year round but is in peak season right now. It’s mild, grassy flavor pairs well with other summer seasonal favorites like corn, tomatoes and green beans. Now that I think about it…perhaps it should be an addition to my corn, tomato and avocado salsa. That is so happening.
The slime inside the pretty green pods actually helps thicken gumbos and stews (which for many chefs is a blessing), but if you have fear of the okra-goo it’s not a problem. You can minimize the sticky factor in a several of ways:
- Lessen okras contact with moisture. The liquid interaction is what causes the slime to come out so be sure that your okra is thoroughly dry before slicing it. Or, slice your okra but add it to your dish last so it has minimal time with liquids.
- Do not overcook your okra. Okra cooks very quickly, so cook it on moderate heat and be sure there is plenty of room in the pan so that the sliced veg is not overcrowded. If there isn’t enough room the okra will begin to sweat and release moisture which equals slime.
- Never cover the pot or pan when cooking okra. That will cause steam, unwanted moisture and, inevitably, okra-goo.
- Do like the southern cooks do and add a bit of lemon juice and vinegar to the dish to cut down on the gloppy texture.
Goo-be-gone, okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. Low in calories and fat-free, okra is a rich source of vitamin C, fiber, calcium and folic acid. The atypical veg (not a root or a leaf but actually a seedpod) is capable of introducing you to some new and delicious flavors if you give it a chance to prove that the slime myth is wrong. There are plenty of ways to gain the nutritional benefits of okra and keep the “gummy texture” to a minimum. The key is to keep it simple and don’t over think the the long pod.
- Grill the okra whole and season with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Make yourself some green french fries with this simple roasted okra recipe. Crisp on the outside, tender inside.
- Get creative with your stir-fry brain and salivate over this okra and potato mix.
- Kid-friendly okra nuggets? You betcha. This recipe has the crunch kids love and the sophistication that wanna-be-okra haters cannot resist. Who needs fried okra when you can have baked!
All for okra and okra for all!
What is your favorite way to eat okra? Do you still fear the not-so-slimy seedpod? Share your thoughts below!