Friday, July 03, 2009

The Versatility of Okra

Okra's Beautiful Bloom

Okra has one of the prettiest blooms in vegetable land. When you think of okra, this probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. This hearty vegetable from the hibiscus family has a lot more up its sleeve, too, and is making its first appearance in the Local Box and on our website this week.

Most people I meet either love okra or hate it. It's a polarizing food that can break up dinner tables. The hate usually stems from the gooey slime that can sometimes coat these 'lady fingers.' Well, I'm here to spread the word that it doesn't have to be that way! If you like it like that, more power to you! But if not, keep reading.

Any cooking that involves water (boiling or steaming) will increase sliminess and any dry cooking (baking or frying) will reduce sliminess. Also, overcooking increases slime. One paradoxical tip is to cut off the tips (but not piercing the inner-pod) and blanch the okra for just a minute. Then throw in some ice water, and dry. Keeping okra whole is the best guard against slime. If you must cut, cut lengthwise in as few slices as possible. The more you cut it when raw, the slimier it will get.

We're used to it being stewed in gumbos. But it can be fried a million ways, pickled, grilled, baked, sauteed, eaten raw, stuffed, and blanched. The seeds can be ground for coffee and the leaves can even be used to treat skin wounds!

Okra is also a nutritional powerhouse. It's high in fiber (2.5g per 6 pods), Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Protein, Niacin, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper, and Iron.

Seriously, folks. Rejoice in the amazing Okra! And enjoy it while it's here for the summer.