What Is Okra?
Okra is a fruit, though it is eaten as a vegetable. The light green seed pods are cooked whole or sliced, so preparation is extremely easy, and it can be cooked in so many ways. However, choosing the right cooking method, such as frying, grilling, sautéeing, and pan-roasting, can reduce or prevent it from becoming slimy. Grocery stores in the U.S. typically sell fresh okra by the pound during the summer months when it’s in season. It’s pricier in the winter months when it’s imported.
How to Cook With Okra
Okra is most commonly used in soups and stews. It contains mucilage, a substance that acts as a natural thickener when heated. While this is beneficial to dishes like gumbo, it also produces the sliminess so often associated with okra. In some Caribbean regions, okra is breaded and deep-fried while in other cuisines it is pickled, which is one way to cut down on its slimy consistency.
You will need to rinse and pat okra dry before cutting or slicing it. The way you slice it can vary from one household to the next, not to mention from one part of the world to another. Okra can be cut into rounds, sliced lengthwise, or cut diagonally. Of course, you can always opt to leave it whole.
A few methods have proven successful in reducing the slime quotient of cooked okra. Some cooks suggest soaking it in vinegar before cooking but just make sure to thoroughly pat it dry afterward. Cooking it at very high heat, such as by grilling or sautéing, also works. You can precook okra this way before adding it to other recipes.
What Does It Taste Like?
Okra has a mild, almost grassy flavor that is uniquely okra. While it’s sometimes compared to the taste of eggplant or green beans, its texture gets more attention. Okra is crunchy when cooked quickly but becomes almost mouthwateringly tender when slow-cooked.
As you learn how to cook okra, gumbo and fried okra should definitely be on your recipe list.
Nutrition and Benefits of okra
If you’re one of those who isn’t put off by okra’s texture, it offers several health benefits. It’s rich in fiber and remarkably low in calories.1 Okra is also high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as several antioxidants that include beta-carotene, xanthin, and lutein. Okra offers a host of B-complex vitamins, too, including niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and pantothenic acid.