Farmer’s Market Friday – Okra!

Don’t be afraid, they’re delicious!

Just for my friend DeeJay who swears she doesn’t like okra… my attempt to redeem the poor maligned pods, and a few recipes too!

Okra is low in calories, high in fiber, and a good source of folates and vitamins A, C, and K. They’re the mainstay in gumbo and other stewed dishes, and the pods actually help thicken the stew broth. Pickled baby okra pods are popular as condiments in India and the Middle East.

A lot of people are turned off by okra because of the slime factor. It’s a shame because okra LOVES our climate, and is delicious fresh from the farm. Okra doesn’t mind heat, or drought, it just continues to grow and grow. You’ll find a TON of it at local markets right now, so get those pods while they’re in season. Also, cooks have help when it comes to dealing with the slime of okra.

The first is a good knife! The slime in okra is a defense, so cutting okra LENGTHWISE with a sharp knife will help reduce the slime of the pods. Picking small pods and slicing them lengthwise will still give perfect bite size pieces when breaded and fried.

There’s also a reason that okra is often seen stewed/cooked with tomatoes. Yes, the two ripen at the same time of year, and YES there’s the obvious YUM factor, but the primary reason is that southern cooks realized that the acid in tomatoes cuts down on the slimy texture of okra. So feel free to stew those delicious pods up in some tomatoes and add some roasted fresh corn. It’s a perfect meatless dinner. Or take a lesson from the acidic tomato and soak sliced okra in buttermilk before cooking. The lactic acid will draw off the extra slime, and you can then drain, dredge in seasoned cornmeal (I add Old Bay in mine) and fry in oil until golden brown. Make sure to salt the okra, AND the cornmeal mixture for the best flavor.

So there ya go… cut as FEW times as possible (smaller pods make this easiest) with a sharp knife, and use the natural acid in tomatoes or buttermilk to make the most of this fresh vegetable. Not a fan of stewed tomatoes? Soaking okra in a bowl of water to which you have added the juice of one lime AND the lime halves themselves does the same thing. It’s all about the acid. Drain and cook as desired. Yum!

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