Okra has a long history, with its beginnings in Egypt where it was cultivated before the time of Cleopatra. The okra plant spread too many parts of the world during the Atlantic slave trade.
Okra, a green edible pod vegetable is commonly disliked by children and some adults because of slippery taste in the mouth.
It is however bursting with vitamins, minerals, and many health benefits needed by our body.
It is also known as “lady finger or gumbo ”.
The species are annual or perennial, growing to 2 m tall.
The flowers are 4–8 cm in diameter, with five white to yellow petals, often with a red or purple spot at the base of each petal. The fruit is a capsule up to 18 cm long, containing numerous seeds.
Okra contains vitamins A and C and is a good source of iron and calcium. It also contains starch, fat, thiamine and riboflavin.
Okra contains the antioxidants epicatechin, catechin, rutin, procyanidin B1 and B2 and quercetin. These antioxidants are capable of preventing damage to cells caused by environmental factors and stress.
- The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilize the blood sugar by curbing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.
- Okra’s mucilage binds cholesterol and bile acid and helps to lower the bad cholesterol and prevents atherosclerosis.
- Okra helps lubricate the large intestines due to its bulk laxative qualities. The okra fiber absorbs water and ensures bulk in stools. This helps prevent and improve constipation. Okra’s mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic. Okra is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming, has no adverse side effects, is full of nutrients, and is affordable for most individuals unlike over-the-counter drugs.
- Okra fiber is excellent for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics). This contributes to the health of the intestinal tract.
- Okra is used for healing ulcers and to keep joints limber. It helps to neutralize acids, being very alkaline, and provides a temporary protective coating for the digestive tract.
- Okra treats lung inflammation, sore throat, and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Okra is good in normalizing the blood sugar and cholesterol level.
- Okra is good for asthma because of its contents of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and curtails the development of asthma symptoms.
- Okra is good for atherosclerosis.
- Okra is believed to protect some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.
- Eating okra helps to support the structure of capillaries.
- Okra is good for preventing diabetes.
There are other medicinal uses of okra, like its protection against trans-fats and it is also good for the skin. Okra is an extraordinary conditioner for the hair, to fight dandruff, dry and irritated scalp, and to add shine to the hair.
HOW TO BUY
Look for smooth, unblemished pods. Green or red okra should be bright in color.
The brighter the ends are, the fresher those okra pods are. Avoid pods with significant brown spots, dry looking ends or those that are starting to shrivel.
HOW TO STORE
Okra is best fresh. Very fresh. Eat okra within a few days of buying it. You can place fresh okra in a paper bag, or wrap it in a paper towel and place inside a perforated plastic bag
then store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. For longer storage, blanch the whole okra for about 3 minutes, then cool it and freeze.
HOW TO MINIMIZE THE SLIMINESS WHILE COOKING
Basically, it’s the interaction with liquid that makes the inside turn slimy, so the solution is to minimize the okras contact with water and other liquids.
There are a couple of ways to do this.
- Wash and wipe dry the okras thoroughly before slicing it.
- You can also steam okra for 3-4 minutes and drain and dry the okra thoroughly before slicing it. After slicing the okra don’t add it to the dish until the very end, so as to minimize moisture contact. For example, you could stew some tomatoes, onion and garlic until done and then add the blanched, dried and sliced okra just before serving.
- Another way is to sauté it, which cauterizes the okra. This is the method used in Indian dishes. Wash the okra, dry thoroughly and then slice and sauté in a very hot skillet with a minimal amount of oil (grape seed or coconut oil are the best). Once done, remove it while you prepare the rest of the dish. Add the okra to the recipe at the very end.
- Don’t cut the okras in very small pieces.
HOW TO ENJOY
There are numerous ways to cook okra as a few were mentioned above. You can make gumbo, pickled okra, fried okra, stewed okra, or add spices to it and then dehydrate it.
Okra gumbo with rice and organic chicken
Fried okra taco
Okra stew with tomatoes and corn
Crispy seasoned okra
Another great way to eat okra is to add spices to it and then dehydrated it.