Okra, also known as “lady’s fingers”, is related to cotton, cocoa, and hibiscus. It is one of the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetable species in the world. Okra has a subtle taste, similar to the flavor of eggplant, and works well with a wide array of spices and seasonings. Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients, nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Raw okra is rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. It also contains moderate amounts of thiamin, folate, vitamin B6, and magnesium. Cooking with Laura
Buying & Storing
Choose okra pods that are between 2 and 4 inches long. Longer okra can be used, but they won’t be as flavorful and can be woody. Some varieties, especially those with thin flesh, can remain tender despite getting big.
Place fresh okra in a paper bag or wrap pods in a paper towel and place in a perforated plastic bag. Store okra in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. For long-term storage, okra may be frozen or pickled. To freeze okra, trim the stem ends, but do not cut into the pod when you trim, and then blanch the pods. Freeze whole or sliced pods in air-tight containers or freezer bags.
Preparation – run okra pods under cool water and pat dry. If the pods are fuzzy, use a damp paper towel to gently rub the skin of the pod to remove the fuzz. If there is a portion of stem still attached to the pod, use a knife to remove it. If you’re preparing okra whole, try not to cut into the pod when removing the stem. If you’re preparing sliced okra, cut the stem off completely.
Raw – eat raw okra pods whole or slice them and add to salads. You can even lightly dust them in a spice mixture and eat as a snack.
Sauté – cut pods into slices or in half lengthwise and sauté with other vegetables (peppers, tomato, eggplant, onion, etc.). Eat as a side or stir-fry with rice or noodles.
Fry – slice the pods into ½ to 1-inch sections or leave whole, batter with egg and cornmeal, and lightly fry in a pan of oil until golden brown.
Roast – slice the pods into ½ to 1-inch sections or leave whole, spread out on a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and desired seasoning. Roast at 425°F for 10-15 minutes, or until the okra has started to brown.
Blanch – leave the pods whole (stem trimmed) and drop in a pot of boiling water. After 3-4 minutes, strain out the pods and quickly drop them in a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. Whole okra is often blanched before being sliced and added to soups or stews as a thickener.
Pickle – leave the pods whole (stem trimmed), pierce each pod 3-4 times with a fork to break the flesh and fill a mason jar with pods, garlic, and other herbs. Fill the jar with boiling pickling solution (vinegar, water, salt, and spices). Let cool. Cover and store in the refrigerator.