In the South, “okra” is synonymous with “fried okra.” Fried okra is an absolute treat, especially when spiced and served with a delicious dipping sauce, but there are many other ways to enjoy okra. Okra can be roasted, added to stews and curries, pickled, added to gumbo or, of course, fried. Today, we’ll discuss some facts about okra and offer two delicious recipes to get you started.
- Okra is a vegetable that comes from the plant Abelmoschus esculentus. It is a member of the hibiscus family and a distant relative of cotton; it blooms beautiful white flowers.
- The part of the okra plant we eat is the immature seed capsule.
- The part of the okra often referred to as “slimy” is mucilage, a mixture of proteins and molecules that helps plants and seeds retain water.
- The mucilage can be used as a thickener for soups and stews. Quick, high-heat cooking (like frying) minimizes the mucilage that gets drawn out in cooking.
- Okra is at its best when pods are young and less than 3” in length. When they are bigger, they can become more fibrous and less tender.
- Some varieties of okra can be red or contain both red and green coloring.