The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Fast And Furious Okra

August 15th, 2009 · 10 Comments · Posted in garden, Recipes

It can never get too hot for okra

It can never get too hot for okra

I actually met a longtime District of Columbia gardener recently who said she had never planted okra and did not sound anxious to do so anytime soon.

What? How can this be? Doesn’t everyone know that nothing grows like okra in our hot, humid D.C. summers? Okra positively loves it here. It just can’t get hot or sticky enough for okra.

In fact, when we returned from vacation this week we were saddened to see so many okra pods had been left to grow to inedible size and mostly tossed on the compost heap. I thought we were in for a major okra setback. But in very short order, since I started paying attention to them again, the okra are producing new pods like crazy. I am harvesting them every day. I am checking on them morning, noon and night. I can barely keep up.

You think I’m exaggerating. Well, you need to try growing some okra yourself.

Me, I have a couple of favorite okra recipes. One of them is smothered okra, simmered with onions and green peppers sauteed in bacon grease, some diced tomatoes and fresh corn. Another fabulous dish is my own invention, a curried okra stew with sweet potato leaves in coconut milk. (I am sorry to say we did not have sweet potatoes this year. But yesterday I found a quart container of this stew hiding in the freeezer.) When I have more okra than I can handle, I like to make a spicy okra pickle. It’s quick and easy and will keep a year or more if you take 15 minutes to process them in a canning jar.

Recently a friend mentioned that she and her husband like grilled okra (never tried it). I’ve heard more than one okra enthusiast singing the praises of okra plucked and consumed raw (not something I’ve attempted.) Others insist that okra is best fried (on that I must disagree).

If you live in a northerly climate where the nights are cool and you are growing salad greens all summer, I salute you. But I also feel a bit sorry for you because you probably are unable to grow okra and are missing out on all the fun.

So how do you like your okra?

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  • audreymgc

    I actually pickled them with diced zucchini, green peppers, sweet onion. The pickling liquid was white vinegar, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes. The are still curing but from the first taste are going to be really good. Another good application is a crunchy football snack, coat them in a cornmeal mix, spray with baking spray and cook at 475 turning once until brown. The come out crunchy and savory. My burgundy okra here in at Ft Stevens is finally doing well.

  • Ed Bruske

    Audrey, your okra recipes sound great, especially the idea of baking the okra. That should save quite a bit of cleanup. I didn’t have much success with burgundy okra the time I tried it. Maybe it’s time to try it again.

  • linkmaxbub

    Until earlier this week I had only experienced the cornmeal-dusted-cast-iron-skillet-fried version of fresh okra. I decided it was time to branch out when I saw some at a local farmers market and picked up a pound. I did my own version of Joy of Cooking’s “Okra Stew” which I’ve always heard called “Stewed Okra”. They offered a tip of marinating the okra pods in red wine vinegar and salt for 30 minutes to remove some of the sticky goo. It worked beautifully. I used onion and garlic sautéed in bacon grease, fresh peeled and cut-up garden tomatoes with a small bit of sugar, and the whole okra pods. I now have a new favorite vegetable. I made grits to which I added some fresh corn cut off the cob and some Taleggio cheese and ladled the stewed okra over. Very very yummy, I mean it.

  • Our Natural Life

    I love pickled okra but have never made my own. I think this year I will give it a try. I love okra lightly steamed for 1-2 minutes tops, smothered with butter and a light dusting of sea salt. A splash of fresh lemon juice is good with this. Lightly steamed okra is great finger food and not slimy when eaten whole. I like to save the seed from overgrown, brown pods. Last year I lost all my okra to rabbits before it produced a single pod, so this year we built a chicken wire cage around the part of the raised bed where the okra grows. They ate our sunflower stalks instead. I should have a good supply of okra beginning this week.

  • Ed Bruske

    Chef, “Joy of Cooking” must be the one place I failed to check when I did my original okra research. But truthfully, the only time I ever had an issue with okra slime was when I tried to use it in a salad. Made me gag. But I was among gardeners yesterday who tried okra freshly picked and raw. They declared it wonderful. I heartily endorse cooking okra dishes with bacon grease, as well as the cheese infused grits. Sounds fabulous.

    Cathy, I had not heard of rabbits eating okra. That must mean they will eat almost anything. It makes perfect sense that the okra will not ooze if not cut. Your very simple preparation sounds so similar to the traditional treatment for green beans. Do try pickling okra. It’s very easy and a good fallback to have when you have more okra than you can eat for dinner.

  • espringf

    Your recipes inspired me to try some okra in my greenhouse this year. I have harvested exactly four pods, on what must be the smallest okra plants anywhere: the big one is about 9″ tall. 🙂

  • Ed Bruske

    Emily, our okra was slow to get started this year as well. I think everyone’s okra in these parts is shorter than usual. But they’re starting to take off. They love heat, and as much sun as you can give them. They’ve become one of our favorite vegetables because they are so productive.

  • De in D.C.

    How many okra plants do you have to keep your family in enough okra? I started with 6 last year and expanded to 12 this year, and I still don’t get more than a few pods a week – not enough for even a side dish for 1 person.

  • Ed Bruske

    De, I went out and counted, something I had never done before. We have 29 plants, which means at peak season (now) I am harvesting several pods sometimes twice daily. That’s enough for sides of okra two or three times a week, plus okra for pickling and some frozen.

  • Ram

    In India kids are urged to eat Okra- so they can do well in math. As kids my mom often threatened us with this. She said no okra would mean poor math grades! It is supposed to be very good for the brain! More reasons to grow and eat okra!