Okra is also known as lady fingers, gumbo and, in south Asia, India, Nepal and some other countries, as bhindi (and, less commonly, bamia and bindi). Gumbo is also the name of a stew that usually contains okra.
Okra grows in an elongated, lantern shape vegetable. It is a fuzzy, green, ribbed, fibrous pod. It is usually two to four inches long, but it can grow to fourteen inches long. When cut open on the bias, it has rows of tiny seeds and a slimy or sticky texture.
The seeds of an okra can be toasted, ground, and served as a coffee substitute. Okra is common in African, Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Caribbean, and South American cuisines. Okra is commonly associated with US Southern, Creole, and Cajun cooking since it was initially introduced into the United States in the US South. Okra is one of the most popular vegetables in late 20th century Japanese cuisine.
Along with roux, okra is the normal thickening agent in gumbo.
The best okra, like almost all vegetables, is young and fresh right out of the garden. Okra is easy to grow, prolific, and beautiful. Okra is in the hibiscus family, and has very pretty yellow flowers. Okra gets very woody when it gets too mature, so be sure to pick often, even if you stick it in the refrigerator for a few days until you are ready to eat it. Fresh okra should be used the same day that it was purchased or stored paper bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Severe cold temperatures will speed up okra decay.
Steam okra until tender, either whole or sliced about ½ inch thick. Smother it with butter. Okra can also be boiled with tomatoes or fried in a cornmeal batter. Okra can be pickled. Okra is a sensitive vegetable and should not be cooked in pans made of iron, copper or brass since the chemical properties turns okra black.
If you are not fond of the slime characteristic to okra, you can take a few measures:
- Before cooking the okra, trim off the ends, being careful not to cut so deeply you expose hollow space inside and seeds.
- Avoid washing the okra pods too early before you cook.
- Do not puncture the okra capsule before or during cooking.
- Do not overcook the okra.
- Cook the okra with tomatoes or some other acid.