A popular mid- to late-summer vegetable in the sweltering hot southern United States is okra, alternately called “lady fingers” or quingombo in various places. There are several common preparations for okra, including breaded in cornmeal and fried, cut up and boiled in stews (like gumbo) as a thickener, boiled (often with tomatoes or field peas), pickled, or even raw in salads.
Okra is a tropical perennial but it thrives as an annual in the American south during the hot summers. I planted a dozen plants in my garden a bit late in the growing season, so they are just now about chest high and starting to produce pods, but that’s no worry because they’ll produce until they freeze to death sometime in October or November.
I enjoy gardening and botany and I like to study up on things that I’m growing, so a few days ago I was reading up on okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) and I came across two totally new (to me) ways to prepare okra! I also like to cook experimentally so guess what the Roaming Parkers get to try soon!?
It turns out that the leaves of okra are edible, but they have the potential to produce the same mucilaginous slime as the cut pods if you don’t prepare them right.
It looks like the thing to do with okra greens is to pick younger leaves and cut the stems out of them because the mucilage is largely in the stems and pods. Also since the slime is water soluble fiber, minimize the water in the preparation and you’ll minimize the slime. Sounds like to me this calls for stir frying.
A final hint that I saw was throw the salt and any other seasoning in at the very end just before you serve it, because the salt will draw out water, which will produce slime if you do it early in the preparation.
Who was the first guy to look at okra seeds and think, “I think I’ll roast those things, grind them up, and use them to brew something like coffee?”
Well, I don’t think they were the first, but the citizens of the Confederate States of America are said to have widely used roasted okra seeds as a coffee substitute during the American Civil War when the Union blockades rendered real coffee either unavailable or too expensive. Check out this fascinating article that I found on a blog at the Chapel Hill Special Collections Library –
Stay tuned to the Roaming Parkers blog to see how these experiments work out!