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Information about Okra
The seed pods of a member of the hibiscus family plants. Okra is thought to originate from Africa in the 1600 century. It is widely used in Indian cooking, where is is known as bindi; other names include gumbo and the ladies fingers.
Okra are slender pod that contains numerous white seeds. When young, okra is eaten as a vegetables, the older pods are usually dried then powdered and used as a flavouring.
The pods contain a mucilaginous gum that surrounds the small edible seeds inside fine lines of pith within the ridges.
Okra's unique flavour and thickening properties make it wonderful addition to stews and soups. As it cooks, it releases sticky juices that thicken any liquid to which it is added. This is due in part to the high content of pectin and other soluble fibre.
Okra makes a valuable contribution to the diet, providing a good amount of vitamin C. This low kilo-joule vegetable is high in folate, a half-cup serving contains about 30 per cent of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI).
It is also a good source of the ani-oxidant Vitamins A and C and potassium, an electrolyte that maintains proper fluid balance, helps to transmit nerve impulses and is needed for proper muscle function and metabolism.
Tips in preparation and cooking Okra
- Gently scrub with paper towel and rinse and drain then slice off the top but don't expose the seeds inside or the liquid will ooze into the rest of the dish. But if this is what you want, slice thickly or thinly according to the recipe.
- If you want to eliminate some of this liquid, first soak the whole pods in acidulated water.(water to which lemon juice has been added)
- The pods can be steamed, boiled or lightly fried and then added to or with other ingredients. Those who are put off by its gummy consistency should try steaming or blanching the pods until they are just tender. Cooking okra as a whole prevents the release of the sticky substance.
- Whether cooked whole or sliced use garlic, ginger or chili to perk up flavour or cook Indian style with onions, tomatoes and spices.
- Some people prefer eating okra raw with dips, as part of a fresh vegetable tray or in salad.
Buying and storing Okra
- Buy pods that are tender and healthy green in colour.
- They should snap rather than bend and no more than 10cm long.
- Avoid pods that are obviously large and fibrous, soft or browning along the ridges. If too ripe, the pod will feel very sticky.
- Remove the okra from any packaging and store it in a colander or plastic basket in the refrigerator where it will keep for 2-3 days.