okra flower
I grew okra for this first time this summer. It was so easy to grow and productive, unlike my tomatoes. (Bitter? Maybe.) If you’ve never grown it before, consider it. If you aren’t a gardener, consider it. Seriously! It’s a lovely plant, with its dramatic flowers, bamboo-like stalks, and huge, tropical-looking leaves.

  • Okra grows best from seed, which makes it cheap. When the seedlings needed thinning, I transplanted several of them. While the transplants never got as tall as the others, they produced just as many okra pods.
  • It grows in all kinds of soil, as long as there is good drainage.
  • It loves the sun and heat.
  • I didn’t have any problems with pests, but have been warned about aphids.
  • If you plan right, it can provide shade for less heat-tolerant plants.
  • Four plants will give you enough okra to enjoy right away, as well as preserve some for later.

And some trivia from the Southern Exposure seed catalog:

  • Okra originated in northeast Africa.
  • The word “okra” is derived from “nkru” in the Ashanti language of West Africa. The word “gumbo” is derived from “ngombo” from the Bantu language of southern Africa. The words used to be used interchangeably, but now we know “gumbo” as the Cajun dish.
  • Folk uses:
    • Seeds can serve as a coffee substitute.
    • The juice has been used to stop bleeding and to clean metal.
    • The stem fibers can be used to make rough cloth or cordage.

Here’s what I did with my okra. I hope this information isn’t too late to be helpful.mmmm...roasted okra
We’ve eaten lots of roasted okra this summer: scatter the pods on a rimmed cookie sheet or broiling pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then broil at 450˚ for 15 minutes or so, occasionally shaking the pan to turn the pods for even cooking.

okra curry
Spicy Okra Curry: cool it off with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

grilled okra
Grilled or roasted okra with lemony-garlic yogurt sauce

Okra and green beans (recipe below), Pork & Greens English banger, sourdough bread with basil pesto and fresh goat cheese crumbles.

Okra and Green Beans
adapted from Vegetables from the “Cooking with Bon Appétit” series

3/4 pound (or so) fresh okra
3/4 pound (or so) fresh green beans
9 ounces water
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 c olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
salt and pepper

Cut stems from okra; wash pods. Wash beans and cut into lengths not exceeding 3 inches. Combine water, tomato paste, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in saucepan and mix well. Heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to boil. Add okra and beans and additional water if necessary to almost cover vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until vegetables are crisp-tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Use bread to sop up the tomato sauce. Yum!

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