If you are from the Southern United States you are likely familiar with okra, a vegetable that thrives in the heat. It is grown across the globe in areas like India, West Africa, Ethiopia, and the United States.
Okra has become an important crop for areas with poor growing conditions as it thrives in hot weather while being drought tolerant. If you enjoy this vegetable you will want to collect new seed each year as it does not store well from season to season.
Okra is often fried, pickled, or incorporated into southern dishes like gumbo and stew as its properties cause it to thicken these types of foods. It is also seen frequently in Oriental cuisine either pickled or stir-fried.
For interest in varieties specifically used in Asian cooking check out varieties from the Kitazawa brand (an Asian specialty brand True Leaf Market has recently taken stewardship of).
Okra develops pods containing seeds and hibiscus-like flowers. When the pods are cooked they develop a mucilaginous slime. This texture is off-putting to some people, however the flavor is loved by many.
While the okra fruit is well known around the world, many people don’t know most of the plant is actually edible. With your next harvest try cooking with the leaves and blossoms in addition to the fruit.
If you would like to grow some Okra yourself, start by selecting some seeds. Here at True Leaf Market we have several varieties with a range of organic, heirloom, and hybrid options. In addition to these we also carry some Asian varieties through Kitazawa Seed Co.
How To Grow Okra:
- Grow in spot with well draining soil, full sun
- Plant 2-3 weeks after the chance of frost has passed
- Start indoors 4-6 wks before last frost or direct sow when temperatures are consistently above 60° F
- Harvest about 2 months from planting
- Remove pods while they are still tender enough to cut (2-3 inches long).
How To Prepare Okra
Okra is really easy to incorporate into your cooking. If you are making a dish such as gumbo, just cut into even pieces. For frying you can either use whole, or slice into your preferred size. To prevent it from becoming gelatinous, cook whole. The most common methods are either frying, or simply mixing into your gumbo for the last 10 minutes or so allowing it to thicken.