Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burgundy Okra

Okra is coming in by the handful. The "Burgundy" variety okra plants are beautiful, with burgundy stems and creamy yellow flowers, and crimson-veined leaves. They make a good front-yard garden plant, if your backyard garden space has reached full capacity.

Besides the beauty, I also love okra because it is pest-resistant, a major plus in an area wracked by squash bugs and spider mites. Did I mention the drought resistance, which means that I only have to water them every four days instead of every day in the middle of this August dry spell?

Okra is also quite nutritious. It contains the antioxidant glutathione, important for the immune system and liver detoxification, and contains more fiber than cereal - 4 grams per 35 calories (about one cup). All that, and quite a lot of protein for a vegetable - 3 grams per cup! According to Jonny Bowden's "150 Healthiest Foods on Earth," calorie for calorie, "Okra is high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and folic acid."

But despite the beauty, nutrition and toughness of okra, many people are not familiar with this easy-to-grow-in-Oklahoma vegetable. What DOES one do with okra? Here's a short list:

  • Skewer and grill them whole with Cajun seasonings (I took this to a potluck recently and people were swearing off fried okra forevermore)

  • Roast sliced okra in the oven / Sun Oven

  • Add to minestrone

  • Use in gumbo

  • Use in Indian-inspired dishes and curries

  • Saute okra, pepper, and tomatoes and serve over rice

  • Freeze it for use in the winter and spring

  • Pickled okra

What are your favorite ways to cook okra? Ah, ah ah - fried okra doesn't count!


Tricia said...

I'm in love with okra. It makes me happy since it's one of the few things thriving right now.
We oven-roasted okra the other night and it was incredible. I can't stress this enough. My entire meal could have been roasted okra—it was that good. I can't wait to do it again.

Wretha said...

Awww man, I LOVE okra, and burgundy okra was my favorite, to grow and eat. The first year I grew it, I had half the okra bed in burgundy, and the other half in clemson spineless, I quickly discovered that the burgundy had fewer spines than the clemson spineless! They turn green when you cook them, they are beautiful when pickled, they retain their purple color.

One of my favorite ways to cook and eat it, wait about a day after the flower falls off, while it's still small, young and tender, bread and deep fry it whole, yum yum!

I wish I could grow them now, I'm in the mountains and it's the altitude that they don't like. I was told that by several locals, but I tried anyhow, they would sprout and by the end of the summer, they would be about a foot tall and I would only get one or two okra pods from each plant, I tried for 2 years to grow them with little success, this year I decided not to grow them. Where I used to live, by the end of the season, I would have to get a step ladder to harvest the okra pods, it's quite different here. :(


Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Tricia - anything special about the oven roasting process? I will have to try it!

Wretha - too bad! Okra, peppers, basil, and vining plants are about the ONLY thing thriving in my garden right now.

Chile said...

Our okra is not pretty. During the hot days, it is so wilted, it looks pathetic. But, in the evening, when watered, it perks right back up.

It is not entirely pest-proof either. When the plants were young, everything wanted to eat them: quail, rabbits, goldfinches, and ground squirrels. We had to totally enclose it until the plants got a couple feet high and they are still fenced to keep the rabbits out.

My fave way to eat okra is raw - best with small ones. Also like a new way from the CSA: blanched just until tender (3 minutes max.), drained, and salted. Otherwise, cooked in gumbo or sauteed with onion and added to couscous.

Sharlene T. said...

I've been a fried okra devotee for many years but I'm going to give the oven roasting a try – in my solar oven, of course… Has to be delicious

Twitter: SolarChief

Rachel Koniar said...

It's so nice to hear something different than fried! I'm in Minnesota, and I don't know anyone that eats or grows it, although it shows up at the farmer's market once in a while. I'll have to try a few of these ideas.

Shannon said...

Last night I put it in quiche! I layered cheese on the crust, then a layer of okra slices. I also put in onion/peppers and diced cherokee purple tomato. YUM! I was worried that it wouldn't work, but the kids loved it.

sowbug said...

If you have Japanese beetles in your area you may have a problem. They like okra. The first year I grew okra I was also growing green beans; the Japanese beetles attacked the beans and left the okra alone. The next season, I didn't grow beans, and then they attacked the okra. *ugh* Japanese beetles are so annoying! I'd be thrilled to be able to grow okra if only just for their flowers.

Wretha said...

I was at a friend's house, she had a container on the counter, it contained "okra chips", they were whole dried (dehydrated? freeze dried?) okra pods, I didn't try one, now I wished I had, they were light and crispy, probably very tasty.


Anonymous said...


Fell in love with your lovely photo of Burgundy Okra and have used it as our photo on our website (with proper attribution and link to this website). We are a non-profit seed company - bountifulgardens.org - and part of growbiointensive.org
Hope this is ok with you - hope it increases exposure for your wonderful efforts.

Bill Bruneau