Long popular in the South, okra is becoming increasingly common in supermarkets and greengrocers all over the country. This small green pod is best known as a key ingredient in the thick piquant soup called gumbo (a word derived from the word gombo, which in West African dialect means okra). There is some question as to who actually introduced the vegetable here--West African slaves or the French colonists of Louisiana--but the plant (which is related to cotton) probably originated in Ethiopia and spread to North Africa and the Middle East before reaching the American colonies. The name okra itself is of African origin, though in other parts of the world where the vegetable is popular--the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East, India, Africa--it is still referred to as gumbo, among other regional names.
Okra's flavor and texture are unique. Its taste falls somewhere between that of eggplant and asparagus, and, not surprisingly, it marries well with other vegetables, particularly tomatoes, peppers, and corn. Cooked sliced okra exudes a sticky juice that is a combination of complex-sounding chemical substances, such as acetylated acidic polysaccharide and galaturonic acid. This juice will thicken any liquid to which it is added, a characteristic that helps to explain okra's long-standing use in soups and stews. Not everyone finds this mucilaginous texture pleasing, but cooking the vegetable quickly will reduce the gumminess, allowing okra to be enjoyed on its own as an interesting and nutritious side dish.
This unusual vegetable has a lot to offer nutritionally. It's a good source of vitamin C, folate (folic acid) and other B vitamins, as well as magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Okra is high in dietary fiber, supplying 4 grams per 1 cup cooked.
Our Earth Exotics™ packaging is unique and is designed for ease of use and with the intent of creating very little waste. Although our packaging is microwave capable, it is not the optimal way to prepare vegetables. We highly encourage you to try other cooking methods such as roasting, sautéing, steaming, and even boiling in some cases. You will find that the vegetables will have a better texture and flavor by utilizing some of these tried and true cooking methods, and will leave you with a better eating experience.
MICROWAVE: Cut corner of bag, microwave on high 2 - 3 minutes.
STEAM: Cut corner of bag, place in steamer over boiling water for 18 - 20 minutes.
BOIL: Remove Okra from bag, boil in salted water for 20 - 25 minutes.
Okra/1 cup cooked
Total fat (g) 0.3
Saturated fat (g) 0.1
Monounsaturated fat (g) 0
Polyunsaturated fat (g) 0.1
Dietary fiber (g) 4
Protein (g) 3
Carbohydrate (g) 12
Cholesterol (mg) 0
Sodium (mg) 8
Thiamin (mg) 0.2
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.3
Vitamin C (mg) 26
Folate (mcg) 73
Magnesium (mg) 91
Manganese (mg) 1.5
Potassium (mg) 515
Small, young pods--no more than about 3" long--are the most tender; as the vegetable matures, it becomes fibrous and tough. Choose pods that are clean and fresh (overmature ones will look dull and dry), and that snap crisply when broken in half; avoid okra pods that are hard, brownish, or blackened.
Don't wash okra until just before you cook it; moisture will cause the pods to become slimy. Store untrimmed, uncut okra in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper for no longer than three or four days.
HANDLING & PREPARATION
Wash the okra; if the pods are very fuzzy, rub them in a kitchen towel or with a vegetable brush to remove some of the "fur."
If you are cooking whole okra pods, trim just the barest slice from the stem end and tip, without piercing the internal capsule; prepared this way, the juices won't be released and the okra won't become gummy. When you are cutting okra into slices, however, you can trim the stem end more deeply. In general, when okra is to be served separately as a vegetable side dish, cook the whole pods rapidly--until crisp-tender or just tender--to minimize the thickening juices. The same principle applies when you are adding okra to any cooked dish in which you want to retain its crisp, fresh quality: Add the vegetable during the last 10 minutes of cooking time. On the other hand, when okra is to be used in a soup, stew, or casserole that requires long cooking, it should be cut up and allowed to exude its juices. Do not cook okra in a cast iron or aluminum pot, or the vegetable will darken. The discoloration is harmless, but makes the okra look rather unappetizing.