Okra; That Slimy Stuff in your Stew

What is Okra?

Okra is an edible fruit that sprouts upright. It is a versatile crop because of the many uses of its fresh leaves, buds, flowers, pods, stems and seeds. Immature fruits of okra are eaten as vegetables. It can be eaten raw, roasted, sauteed, or steamed.

After cooking, it has a mucilaginous consistency. The extract from the fruit is frequently added to various recipes such as stews and sauces to thicken the consistency. When used as a plasma replacement or blood volume expander, okra mucilage has medicinal applications.




Where did Okra originate from?

Okra is originally from Ethiopia. By 12 BC it was taken across the globe to areas such as North African, the Mediterranean, Arabia and India. Given Ethiopia's little contact with the rest of the world throughout history, it is not surprising that the origins of "Okra" are not well known.


The name "Okra" originated from Niger-Congo. By the end of the 18th century, the word "Okra" was used in English.


In different parts of the world, "Okra" is known by many local names.

England = The lady's finger
The United States = Gumbo,
Spanish = Guino gombo
Portuguese = Guibeiro
India = Bhindi

So, what's so good about Okra?

  • Okra has high antioxidant activity.

  • Okra is a source of 4 B Vitamins.

  • Okra is a great source of fibre.

  • Okra seed oil is a rich source of Omega-6.

  • Almost 40% of the daily value of Vitamin C in one cup of okra.

  • Vitamin K is the most abundant vitamin in okra, which is important for blood clotting.

Growing Okra

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Okra is considered in season from June until November, making it ideal for Southern climates. Okra is good for both garden and large commercial farm operations. The Plant "Okra" is cultivated commercially in many countries, including India, Japan, Syria, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Benin, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Thailand.


Fresh okra seeds should be bought yearly and planted directly into the soil during the late spring when the soil has warmed up. Okra plants grow quickly in hot weather. Their pods are harvested when they are roughly 6-8 cm (2-3”). The plants can be harvested for a lengthy time. Once pods are picked, unused ones can be frozen.


Picking the best okra

When choosing okra, make sure the pods that are bright green and firm. Avoid choosing pods that are very hard because they will be bitter and difficult to eat. Conversely, pods that are too soft are overripe and will not taste as good either.


Fresh okra should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic produce bag for no more than 2-3 days. The pods should be unwashed and completely dry so that they do not absorb any moisture. If the pods become too soft or turn brown, discard them.


Okra dishes

Okra is used in multiple cultural dishes. West African dishes like banku and okra stew with goat meat. South Asian dishes like Bhindi Masala. It can also be found in the southern United States in dishes like gumbo.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Sources:

Fekadu Gemede, Habtamu & Retta, Negussie & Desse Haki, Gulelat & Woldegiorgis, Ashagrie & Beyene, Fekadu. (2015). Nutritional Quality and Health Benefits of “Okra” (Abelmoschus esculentus): A Review. J. Food Process Technol.. 25. 16-25. 10.11648/j.ijnfs.20150402.22.


Hongu, N., Franklin, A. M., & Suzuki, A. (2015). Okra. Handle Proxy. http://hdl.handle.net/10150/346103.


Macdonald, M. (2021). How to Grow Okra. West Coast Seeds. https://www.westcoastseeds.com/blogs/how-to-grow/grow-okra.





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