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OkraOkra grows in tropical and warm temperature climates. The thin edible skin of the okra can be smooth or downy, depending on the variety; the inside is divided into sections containing numerous edible green or brownish seeds. When cut, the okra pod releases a sticky substance whose thickening properties make is useful in soups and stews.

How to Select: Choose small to medium sized Okra pods (2 to 3 inches long) that are deep green, firm, and free of blemishes. Pods should snap easily; you should be able to puncture them with slight pressure. If too ripe, Okra will have a very sticky texture.

How to Store: Okra is perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator in a paper bag, or wrapped in a paper towel inside a perforated plastic bag. Stored in this manner, it will keep for 2 to 3 days.

How to Prepare: Gently scrub the surface of the okra with a vegetable brush or paper towel. Rinse and drain the okra, and slice off only the top and the tail if they are to be cooked whole.

For long, slow cooking, rinse pods; cut off and discard stem ends, then slice clockwise.

Cooking Methods: Okra can be prepared in many different ways; it can be braised, boiled, steamed, dressed with bread crumbs and fried, sautéed, or marinated, but it does not puree well.

Allow ¼ pound per person

Cooking Tips:

To control the slime: Leaving okra whole and quick cooking – sautéeing, grilling, frying – brings out the crunchy, rather than the slimy, side of okra. Cooking okra with plenty of acid – vinegar, citrus juice, tomatoes – is another way to keep its slimy nature in check.

To take advantage of the secreted slime: Many great okra dishes use okra’s slimy side to their advantage to thicken and add body, a prime example of this is gumbo.

How to Boil: In a wide frying pan, boil 1 pound of okra, covered in 1 inch of water until just tender when pierced (5 to 10 minutes). Drain.

How to Steam: Arrange whole Okra on a rack. Steam until just tender when pierced (8 to 15 minutes).

How to Grill: Toss okra with a bit of oil and throwing them on the grill for about 10 minutes? The charred bits of grilled okra highlight the flavour of the pods.

Freezing: Okra can be frozen after being blanched whole for 2 minutes.

OkraTips:

– When stewed or cooked with liquid, okra can, indeed, get “slimy.” Quick cooking and dry heat, however, let the crisp, grassy flavor of fresh okra shine through

– Do not cook Okra in iron, tin, copper, or brass pans. These metals react with the pods, causing them to discolour (however, they are still perfectly safe to eat).

– Okra contains a clear, somewhat thick liquid that is how it stores water in the hot climates where it thrives. When you slice or chop okra some of that liquid (or, let’s be frank, slime) will release, getting on your knife and cutting surface. It cleans off easily with soap and water.

– This vegetable contains a sticky substance whose thickening properties make it particularly useful in soups and stews.

– Okra has a sticky texture when overcooked.

– Okra does not puree well.

– Okra seeds were at one time dried and roasted to be used as a coffee substitute.

-Okra’s subtle flavour can be compared to an eggplant, and it can be substituted for eggplant in many dishes.

Goes well with:

Okra goes well with: onions, lamb, beef, rice, peppers, tomatoes, dried apricots, eggplant, coriander, curry powder, oregano, lemon, salt, garlic and vinegar.

Serving Ideas: Okra is eaten raw or cooked. It is a useful thickening agent in soups or stews, and should be added about 10 minutes before the end of cooking. It is also delicious cold sprinkled with vinaigrette or added to a salad after being quickly blanched.

Top hot, cooked Okra with melted butter, a squeeze of lemon, chopped chives, or parsley. Add cooked slices of okra to an omelet along with chopped tomatoes, and ham.

Nutrition:

According to the Canadian Nutrient File, per 100 g of cooked okra, there are only 22 calories, 50% of vitamin K, 27% of vitamin C, 21% of folate, 14% of magnesium, 11% of vitamin B6, 10% of fibre (2.5 g), 7% of calcium and 4% of potassium.

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