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Southern comfort food, Okra the forgotten vegetable...

Updated on March 28, 2014

What a Beautiful Vegetable

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Why you need to eat Okra

Okra is a funny shaped vegetable, with little tiny seed pellets inside. When sliced it looks almost star shaped, it has a wonderful bright green color, and fresh grassy flavor while being slightly gooey. It's very popular in Southern Soul Food cuisine, but needs to be eaten more often, mainly because it is packed FULL of vitamins and nutrients. Okra is a good source of vitamin C, A, also B complex vitamins, iron and calcium. It is extremely low in calories, and a fantastic source of dietary fiber, all while remaining fat-free!

Good to know

  • Okra is a tropical plant
  • Okra is a very big plant, it's not uncommon for it to grow over 6ft tall
  • 5 days after flowering the pods must be harvested, before they mature and get to tough
  • It is available year round, with a peak season in summer months

The story behind the plant

Okra most likely was first grown somewhere near Ethiopia, it was cultivated by ancient Egyptians by the 12th century B.C. Its cultivation spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Seed pods were eaten cooked, seeds were also toasted and ground, and used as a coffee substitute (and sometimes still are), it then arrived in the Caribbean and U.S. in the 1700s, probably by slaves from West Africa, and was introduced to Western Europe . In Louisiana and other southern states, the Créoles learned how to use okra (gumbo) to thicken soups and it is now a staple item in Créole Gumbo.

Okra is loved in Africa, the Middle East, India, Greece, the Caribbean, Turkey, South America and the Southern U.S. It is not the most popular vegetable in European countries, except Turkey and Greece.

Due to increased interest in American regional foods, these bright green, tender pods have gained respect as a vegetable in the U.S., aside from its use as a thickening agent in soups and stews.

Okra?

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Packed full of goodness!

Okra is packed with vitamins and nutrients

Values mentioned are based on a 2000 calorie a day diet.

One 10 oz. serving is a minuscule 71 calories. Its got 7 grams of dietary fiber, or %29 of the daily requirement. 5 grams of protein! No saturated fat, and no trans fat. This serving will also provide 36% of your daily need for vitamin C. These veggies are rich in B-complex group of vitamins like niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. Okra is also full of vitamin K, which is a co-factor for blood clotting enzymes and is needed for strengthening bones. The pods contain a large amount of vitamin A, as well as flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta carotenes, xanthin and lutein. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties and are essential for vision. This anti-oxidant content makes it one of the best green vegetables for you. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining skin. Consumption of vegetables rich in flavonoids helps protect the lungs and mouth from certain cancers.

Quick easy preparations to try!

  1. Quickly pickled-Blanch 1lb of okra (boil 2 minutes, then quickly plunge into ice cold water). Next, bring 1 cup water, 2 cups vinegar, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp sugar, and 3 gloves garlic to a boil until all the sugar dissolves. Pour this mixture over the okra and enjoy!
  2. As a filling stew-saute a small diced onion in olive oil, add in 2 large chopped tomatoes (or 1 can diced tomatoes with juice), 1 cup of corn, 1 can of black beans (drain and rinse), and 1 cup sliced okra. Simmer until the okra is crisp, season with salt and pepper and serve over brown rice, or even better quinoa.
  3. A tasty finger snack-Toss whole okra with coconut oil and roast at 450 for about 15 minutes, sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes and sea salt. Enjoy!

© 2013 Rebecca

Comments

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    • Margie Lynn profile image

      Margie's Southern Kitchen 

      2 years ago from the USA

      I wish I had a big helping of okra, love it fried, steamed, pickled, gumbo, soup...now I am very hungry for okra!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      We do love our okra in the south. When I fry it the family nibbles on it like peanuts or popcorn. SOmetimes it is all gone by supper time.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      m...a..y..b..e I'll give okra a second chance. In the past, I have found it to be not a good flavor and slimy. Your article has given me impetus to give it one more try.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 

      5 years ago from America

      Love okra. Wish I could grow it here but we don't have a long enough season. Voted up on your hub.

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