I love the word “okra.” It sounds quirky and progressive and the vegetable itself looks so unique. In fact, okra does have a lot of unique characteristics to it. The weirdest one being that when you cook okra, it oozes out a sort of sliminess that, although sounds disgusting, is actually what gives okra dishes their texture and specialness. Okra is commonly used in soups, particularly Cajun-type gumbos, salads, and as an addition to vegetable dishes. The “sliminess” of the cooked okra gives any dish that extra oomph! You won’t have to add corn starch to thicken your dish.
Hopefully the sliminess hasn’t turned you off to okra just yet. It has a delicious taste because the mucilaginous (slimy) characteristic allows the okra to absorb the flavor of the dish quite well. Think of Cajun-style gumbos that are hot and spicy! The okra will absorb those spices right up! Okra not only adds some artistic flair to your meal with the octagonal or hexagonal shape after cutting the pods into pieces, but the seeds also add a little crunch when cooked al dente. The best thing about okra is that it is SO good for you!
It is one of many vegetables that is low calorie and high fiber. It is rich in folate, vitamins A, C and K, and potassium. It even has calcium, good for bones, and lutein, which is good for your eyes.
The trick to buying fresh okra is to look at the pods. They should be green and feel dry to the touch. Okra can be used in multiple dishes – as a stand alone steamed vegetable to my salmon dinner, as an addition to my spinach salad for lunch, and as a wonderful thickening agent to my beef barley vegetable soup. Okra can only be stored in the fridge for a few days because it can easily go bad. You can tell when your okra should be thrown out because the pods start to turn brown and feel slimy to the touch. The good thing about okra’s short shelf-life is that they are always fresh at the grocery store and once you buy them, you are forced to eat them all within a few days, thereby including them in ALL your meals. Not bad because of all the nutrients you will be getting!
Craving some variety in your life? Try some okra – it is great raw in salads for that extra crunch and unique shape and can be used to replace your ordinary go-to veggie (broccoli or peas) for a fun and healthy addition to your meals. (Photos from Wikipedia).