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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Okra

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Okra:

Okra is known in many English speaking countries as "lady's fingers".  It is a flowering plant in the mallow family related to such species as cotton, cocoa, and hibiscus.  Okra are valued for their edible green seed pods.
 
Okra is thought to be of Asian or African origins.  It was brought to the U.S. three centuries ago by African slaves.   In various Bantu languages it is called "kingombo" which eventually became "gumbo" for either the vegetable itself, or a stew based on it.   Cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperature regions of the world, okra is among the most heat - and drought - tolerant vegetable species in the world. 
 
Okra is usually available year round in the South and from May to October in many other areas.  Okra can be found fresh, frozen, pickled , and canned.  Okra is considered a health food for its high fiber, Vitamin C, and folate content. The products of the okra  plant are mucilaginous resulting in the characteristic "goo" or slime when the seed pods are cooked; this mucilage contains a usable form of soluble fiber which is widely used to thicken stews and soups in many cultures.
 
My first experience with okra was while working in the supermarket.  At that time we packaged all the produce, mostly in the store.  Okra was one of the items we would package.  Well, we had this gal that was working with us in the produce department who was allergic to okra.  Every time we would package  okra she would take out a pair of rubber gloves, so she would not have to touch the okra.  Of all the things  we packaged that is the only thing she used the gloves for.  When we began displaying the okra loose, we just had to remember not to wet the okra.  That will turn it black.  Okra makes me think of that.  Today people where protective gloves for almost anything, especially having to do with food.
 
Okra is a rich source of dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins; often recommended by nutritionists in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.  Okra is a good source of vitamin A and  flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta carotene, xanthin, and lutein.  It is a good source of vitamins C and K and rich in B-complex vitamins like niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.   Okra contains the minerals iron, calcium, manganese, and magnesium.
 
Select young pods free of bruises, tender but not soft, and no more than four inches long.  Okra can be stored in the refrigerator unwashed in a paper bag, or wrapped in a paper towel in a perforated plastic bag for 2 - 3 days.  Okra may be frozen for up to 12 months after being blanched whole for 2 minutes.  Cooked okra can be stored (tightly covered) in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 days.
 
So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!   I'll show you how. 
 

Simple but good:

Roasted Okra:
 
18 okra pods (smaller ones are more tender)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
2 teaspoons of pepper
1 wedge of lemon.
 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cover a roasting pan with tin foil.  Trim okra and slice into 1/3 inch pieces.  Arrange the okra in a single layer on the tin foil.  Drizzle on the olive oil, then sprinkle on the salt and pepper.  Stir the okra to coat with the oil, salt, and pepper.  Shake the pan to get the okra back to a single layer.  Roast in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until the okra is just starting to turn brown on the edges.  Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon.