Okra

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1. WHAT IS IT? 

Pronounced: oh-crah 

AKA: ladies’ fingers; bhindi; ochro; gumbo

Countries of origin: West Africa and South Asia 

Plant of origin: Abelmoschus esculentus

History: It’s unclear where okra originally came from. South Asia has distant ancestors of the plant, while West Africa has a greater diversity of it. One of the earliest reports of okra is from 1216 when a Spanish Moor visited Egypt. By 1658, okra came to the Americas from ships of the Atlantic slave trade. 

Varieties: green and red

In Season: July – September 

 

2. IS IT HEALTHY?

Diet: gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free 

Nutritional Value: dietary fiber, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium 

Health Benefits: improves vision and skin, eases digestion and constipation 

Replaces: jalapeños or asparagus   

 

3. WHERE CAN I FIND IT?

Where: farmer’s markets or your grocery store’s produce section 

BUY this: pods that are firm and 4-inches small

AVOID this: pods that are discolored, mushy, or cracked

 

4. HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

Store: In the fridge for up to 2-3 days or in the freezer for 1 year. Before freezing, blanch the okra by placing the pods into boiling water for about 3 minutes, then remove, cool in ice water, and dry before placing in plastic bags and into the freezer. 

NOTE: For the best cooking results okra should be fresh, so use the pods as soon as possible. When the tips and ridges start to turn black, use immediately or discard.

 

5. I DIDN’T KNOW THAT. . .

  • Okra is one of the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetable species in the world.
  • When okra came to Virginia in 1781, Thomas Jefferson wrote about it in his diary. 
  • Okra seeds can be roasted and ground to form a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.

 

6. BUT HOW DO I EAT IT?

Okra Nachos

 

Craving more? Try these recipes:

Okra with Potatoes (from neurophys.wisc.edu)

Okra Casserole (from neurophys.wisc.edu)

Smashed Fried Okra (from myrecipes.com)

 

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  One thought on “Okra

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