Okra is plentiful

The days and weeks are beginning to run together; this past week I was making masks, worked in the gift shop and getting my house ready for some company. Last weekend, my daughter and son-in-law came in for a couple of days and we enjoyed our visit. They left on Monday and on Tuesday I headed to Devine for bunco and visiting with my other daughters. It is so nice that my daughter is spending time working on the house in LaCoste, especially when it coincides with my trip for bunch! She is making headway with the house and it looks different each time I visit. I came home on Friday afternoon and on Saturday had friends from the Sugarland area to visit for the day, we went to the cemeteries where they have ancestors buried and then back home to look at pictures in the album she brought with her, hoping I could identify a couple more for her! Thankfully, I was able to help and she was happy with getting a couple of pictures of her Dad when he was a child that she didn’t already have. We had a great time together and got lots of visiting done!
Recently when I attended a meeting at our country church, one of the ladies who has a garden brought okra to share, I usually just make a batch of gumbo, or fry it, but I tried a new recipe that a friend had shared on Face Book that involved slicing the okra lengthwise, drizzling it with olive oil, seasoning it, and then roasting in the oven, and it’s delicious!
Now, let’s talk a little bit about okra. It seems to me this is a vegetable that is either well liked or hated because of the ‘slimy’ factor. There have been several face book posts about okra recently, some of them touting the health benefits of eating it.
According to recent studies, a new benefit of eating this vegetable is being considered. It has been suggested that it may help manage blood sugar in type 1 and 2 and gestational diabetes. Okra, “Abelmoschus Esculentus is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world. It is among the most heat and drought tolerant vegetable species and will tolerate even heavy clay soil; however, frost can damage it.
It belongs to the mallow family and is related to crops such as cotton, cocoa and hibiscus and is a perennial plant. It is generally thought to have originated in the Ethiopian Highlands, although the actual time of domestication occurred is not positively known. A food scholar, Jessica Harris asserts that okra is “the one vegetable absolutely emblematic of the African presence in the New World.” The story of okra’s journey to the New World is that slaves brought the seeds with them. However, it is felt that being kidnapped and sold into slavery, that it is very unlikely that this happened.
The name “okra” is most commonly used in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Philipines. A variant of the pronunciation is “okro” in Carribean English, in Nigeria. It is also known as “Lady Fingers” in the Bantu language, and has been called gumbo, ochro, bamie and also several other names. It is a popular vegetable in a large number of places and they seem to each have their own name for it. In the United States, especially in Louisiana, it has been used for centuries as a thickening agent and also, for their iconic food: gumbo! In fact using the term “okra gumbo” is sort of redundant, as the word “gumbo” actually means okra!
Okra is mostly misunderstood by people, due to its slimy consistency when stewed, and the best way to avoid this is by the use of a little vinegar added to the dish you’re preparing, I had never heard of this until Mrs. Van Damme told me about it. Over the years, I have found that when its fried, or pickled, it is not slimy. My preference for frying is very small okra fried whole, however, that is not always possible, because most gardeners feel that bigger is better! It isn’t, because when okra gets bigger, it gets “woody” or “pithy” and is hard to cut, chew or eat.
The vegetable is a source of potassium, vitamins B and C, folic acid and calcium. It is very low in calories and has negligible fat. Raw okra is 90% water, 2% protein and 7% carbohydrates. For more information, type “okra” into your search engine and check out all the information. I could not access their recipes, so the ones below are from my own files.
This vegetable can be eaten raw, and it can be cooked many, many different ways, probably with gumbo or fried being the most popular. My family and I like pickled okra and some of us would can it each year to enjoy. My favorite way to enjoy it is fried and when I get chicken at our local fried chicken vendor, I always ask for okra instead of fried potatoes.
Okra Gumbo
1 to 1½ pounds fresh okra
5 slices thin sliced bacon (2 or 3 slices if you buy thick sliced)
3/4 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 can (16-oz size) tomatoes (it’s best to use whole tomatoes and break them up as the gumbo cooks)
1 to 2 ears fresh corn *
1 tablespoon vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash okra, cut off stem ends and then cut into ½ to ¾ -inch slices. Set aside. Clean the corn and slice from the cob, set aside. Slice the bacon crosswise into small pieces and fry until crispy, remove bacon from pan and pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the drippings, stir the cut okra into the drippings and cook and stir until it changes color. Add the onions and peppers and cook and stir another 5 minutes; then add the corn and tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid is gone. *You can use about 1 cup frozen corn if you prefer.
Also, you may add cooked sliced sausage or cleaned and deveined shrimp. If using the shrimp, add them the last 4 or 5 minutes of cooking, as they will cook quickly. Okra gumbo is another of those dishes that probably has as many variations as there cooks to make it, and yes, I have added different types of meat to it, including sausage, chicken and shrimp at various times and in various combinations.! (And, if you check online, you can probably find a true Cajun Gumbo recipe).
This is a really simple recipe and you just use the amount you want for however many you’re serving. I used 12 okra, because it was a trial and just for a snack, they were good enough that I ate all 24 pieces in about 15 minutes.
Olive oil
Seasoning as desired
Preheat oven to 425º, line a baking sheet with foil and set aside. Place the okra pods (best size is about 3 to 3½-inches), split lengthwise and place on lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. (Mine were cooked in about 13 or so minutes). The seasoning I used was Uncle Chris’, but you could use just plain salt and pepper, fajita seasoning, seasoned salt or whatever your preference is.