Slimy, slimy, slimy. That is the only thought that would have popped into my mind if you mentioned okra to me up until just a few years ago. Growing up these were one of those â€œyuckâ€ veggiesâ€¦definitely. However, in the same way that I have taken to amapalaya, I now kind of like the texture and blandish flavor of okra in some dishes such as gumbo and pinakbet. Okra (Hibiscus esculentus), otherwise referred to as ladyâ€™s fingers (I mean, really, what kind of dame would have hairy, pointy fingers???), Bhindi, or gumbo is from a plant related to cotton. Hmmm, one could in fact describe itâ€™s texture as a wet ball of cotton when cooked. Some reference books such as my Encyclopedia of Foods from The Dole Company suggest that okra originated in the â€œnear eastâ€ – Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey) – went on to Africa, the Caribbean, Southern United States and presumably, with the galleons to the Far East. Other reference books, however, suggest okra originated in Africa and point to the origin of the name okra as coming from Africa. At any rate, it is now abundant in tropical areas around the world, with a huge showing in Indian cuisine as well as in Creole/Southern U.S. cooking.
Itâ€™s best to choose the young pods of okra as they are tender and less fibrous. If you slice the okra and add it to a dish, the seeds and liquids inside the pods get viscous and well, I would say mucousy. If you cook the pods whole, they do not affect the texture of the dish or gumbo they are in. Okra is an incredibly easy plant to grow and it bears fruit prolifically. As such, it costs very little and is a mainstay of economical and delicious curries and other stewy dishes. Apparently rich in Potassium, Magnesium and Phosphorous, as well as high in Vitamin C, this is a healthy veggie to consume. Personally, I have really only come across it in gumbo, in pinakbet, sometimes in soups such as sinigangs and as tempura. I am curious what other dishes it can be used in and if you have any great ideas, please leave a comment on this postâ€¦thanks!