1. WHAT IS IT?
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?
Craving more? Try these recipes:
Okra with Potatoes (from neurophys.wisc.edu)
Okra Casserole (from neurophys.wisc.edu)
Smashed Fried Okra (from myrecipes.com)