It's one garden vegetable I can always count on to produce faithfully until frost kills it. Also known as "gumbo," this African native grows well here in the southeast, requires little care, and produces tons of edible pods. The pods freeze well without blanching, and can be eaten in a variety of ways. The seeds are easy to save.
There are some objections to it however. When cut, the pods release a soluble, mucilaginous fiber, which gives the vegetable a characteristic "slimy" texture. Because of this, okra is often used to thicken soups and stews, like gumbo. It's also enjoyed slime and all, either stewed by itself or with tomatoes.
Not everyone cares for that mucousy texture however, and there are ways to minimize it. A popular restaurant offering is fried okra, where the chopped pods are breaded and deep fried. The pods can also be cooked whole, in fact sometimes I roast them in the oven this way. Pretty tasty.
Our favorite way to eat okra is probably fried, but I rarely, if ever, fry foods. This is mostly because of the amount of fat or oil required for deep frying. Plus it seems like a lot of trouble when there are so many other tasty ways to prepare food. Our second favorite way is sauteed, and here's how I saute okra while minimizing the slime factor.
|Washing freshly picked okra pods.|
Okra has to be picked while the pods are still tender. They grow quickly so this is an almost daily task. If I don't have any fresh, I grab a quart out of the freezer. It needs to at least be defrosted enough for the slices to separate.
|Chopping with onion. Garlic is good too.|
I slice them and chop up some onion too. Fresh garlic is excellent to add, but if I don't have any of that, I might add garlic powder.
|Cook together in the fat or oil of your choice.|
I like to cook this in one of my cast iron skillets. I either use olive oil, or bacon fat if I have it.
|Mucous strings forming|
As it cooks, wet "strings" form between the pieces. This is the stuff folks don't care for.
|Sprinkling with corn flour|
When this starts to happen, I start sprinkling it with fine corn meal, corn flour actually. I stir it in and keep on sprinkling until the pieces are dry with no strands.
|Cook until tender & browned|
The corn flour browns and cooks with the okra and onions. The end result is more like any other sauteed vegetable, rather than a slimy mass. Season with salt and pepper to taste and dig in.