Okra

It has been a hot, rainy, humid summer here in Ohio.  The garden has loved it, but the one plant that has truly loved this year’s weather is our OKRA!  I grew up loving this vegetable which is widely used in the southern states, my family is very southern.  Waves at my Great Aunt Meg, who REALLY taught me to enjoy southern cooking back in Mentor, Tennessee!

I planted two varieties this year, one the shorter ruby and the other is the heirloom green, which by the way, grows taller than me.  Its a good thing my husband and I both LOVE, and that is an understatement, okra.  Because this year, I have harvested baskets of it and every day it seems that I have a new big basket to harvest every afternoon.  Yes, I am still harvesting well into September!  Okay so I may have planted 100 plants, but well, we love okra.

Now, what do you do with this odd, spiny, plant that when cooked creates what I call “Okra Boogers” or “Okra Snot” depending on who you want to shock and gross out at the time.  My husband refers to the okra peas as “rat eyes” especially in soups and stews.  Can you tell that we just love to have fun!  Oh, here is a warning.  Some people are very allergic to the fuzz that grows on okra, it causes almost a poison ivy affect to their skin.  I’ve never had this problem, but I do know some who do.

Okra is highly nutritious and it is filling as well as easy to grow in warm temperatures, which explains why you find it a lot in the southern states.  It’s very high in fiber as well as containing potassium, vitamin B, vitamin C, folic acid, and calcium. It’s low in calories and has a high dietary fiber content. Recently, a new benefit of including okra in your diet is being considered. Okra has been suggested to help manage blood sugar in cases of type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.  So in short, what’s not to like.

My husband’s absolute favorite for okra, is pickled okra.

Pickled Okra

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb of okra
  • 1/4 clove of garlic for each jar (6)
  • 1 dill flower head for each jar (6)
  • jalapeno pepper diced fine or red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups of apple cider vinager
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard seed
  • 6 half pint canning glass jars with lids and rings

Directions

  1. Clean your okra removing the tips and caps only (I keep some of the cap on).  Leave whole.
  2. Add 1/4 clove garlic in each jar.
  3. Add 1 dill flower in each jar.
  4. Pack your okra tightly in each jar leaving 1/2 inches head space.
  5. In a large pot on your stove.  Combine your Vinegar, water, salt, peppers, mustard seeds.
  6. Stir and bring to a full boil.  Do not stop stirring, your salt will burn.
  7. Ladle liquid into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head-space.
  8. Water bath process for 15 minutes half pints 20 minutes for pints.

 

Another way we like them is pan fried as a side dish.

Pan Fried Okra

  1.  Melt about a tablespoon of lard in a frying pan.
  2. In a bowl I whip up 1 egg and set to the side.
  3. I prepare the okra by taking off the tips and caps and slicing into thick rounds.
  4. I put all the okra into the egg batter and stir in some red pepper flakes, or some diced jalapeno.
  5. Next I add enough cornmeal to the egg and okra and stir it in the bowl to cover it all, you don’t want it corn patty thick, but just enough to give a nice coating.
  6. Once the lard is melted, add your mixture into the pan and “separate” the pieces and move around often in the hot lard to cook.
  7. You will want to watch it because it will cook fast and is easily burned.
  8. Serve hot or cold.

All this is fine and well until you realize you are becoming over run with okra, so how do you store it to enjoy later and in the winter when it is no longer in season?  In addition to the pickling, we also store two other ways.  Freezing and dehydrating.

Dehydrating your Okra

I like to dehydrate our okra because it takes up very little space, it gets rid of the “Okra Boogers” and it works fantastic for gumbos, soups and stews.

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  1. Wash your okra and remove the caps and tips.
  2. I flash steam my okra whole.
  3. Slice into rounds or wedges.  I like the wedges because they don’t shrink to itty-bitty pieces.
  4. Place in your dehydrator on low heat/vegetable heat and run until they are crispy and no sign of moisture.  You can also do this in the oven on the lowest temperature, door cracked upon, placing the okra on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Vac-Seal or store in an air-tight/moisture resistance container.

The final way is to freeze the okra.  I try not to do this because I don’t like to fill up the freezer with vegetables that can be stored other ways, but I will freeze some.  You can use this as fried okra, or in soups, stews and gumbos when you need it in the off season.

Freeze Store Okra

Warning you will be dealing with lots of “Okra Boogers” in this process.

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  1. Clean your okra, remove the tips and caps.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a full boil and turn off the water.
  3. Dunk your okra (whole) in the hot water for about 3 minutes.  This is a quick blanch.
  4. Dump the hot water out from around the hot okra and now fill the pot with ice cubes.  This prevents the okra from continuing to cook from the blanching process.
  5. Now take out each okra spear and cut into rounds.
  6. For large and woody spears of okra, discard the green pod and keep the okra peas (the white seeds), these are great in soups.  These are what my loving husband refers to as “Rat Eyes”.
  7. Once your spears are cut into rounds, put them in your vacuum seal bags and seal.  Make sure all air is out of the bag, then freeze.  I usually store in 2 cup quantities which is about a serving.

I hope you have enjoyed this post about all things Okra!  Feel free to share your recipes and questions.

Until Next Time,

Mrs. Kay L. Rice

 

 

 

A Little Garden

The one thing I miss more than anything is having a huge garden and living in the country.  But really, you don’t need acres of land to enjoy home grown produce.  And for newbies, its super easy!

You know those pallets that are thrown out or you may even have stacked up somewhere?  These are great for little box gardens and can be used in the smallest of places.

On the open sides, you will want to tack in some wood to keep the dirt from spilling out. But other than that no building skills are necessary.   Place the pallet where you want it to stay, preferably over other dirt, lots of sun please.  Fill it with good dirt (maybe a few earth worms to help).  Now brush of the mess off the “Top” of the pallets.  plant your seeds and add your markers.  Water and care for and yes you may even have to pull out a few weeds, but that’s about it.

 

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Then enjoy the earth’s bounty!  This is really great for radishes, lettuce, peppers, spinach, herbs, eggplant, pretty much anything that doesn’t vine or need support.

 

 

Let me know what you think and enjoy!

Until Next Time,

Mrs. Kay L. Rice