Let’s take a minute to talk about okra.
Okra is a unique plant that you’ll most often find in Ethiopian and Egyptian dishes. It’s a great piece of produce to add to your dishes so you get your daily dose of greens and so that you add new flavor to your meals.
Okra has a grassy, slightly sweet flavor. You’ll notice nutty notes, especially if you fry the vegetable, and will also notice that the flavor gets stronger the longer you cook it.
What Is Okra?
Okra, although commonly known as a vegetable, is actually a fruit. These plants are light green in color and have a long, pointy shape, sort of like that of chili peppers. They’re a drought-resistant plant that does well in hot weather, reaching 80 degrees or higher.
Because of this, okra does especially well in warm areas such as Ethiopia and Egypt. Most growers plant okra pods during the hottest months of the year in these countries, and then ship the plant out worldwide.
Okra pods can be sliced or cooked whole, making it very easy for you to prepare them. Plus, their mild flavor means that they’re extremely versatile and can be cooked by roasting, frying, grilling, sauteeing, and so many other ways of preparation.
There are several different types of okra, with a few of the more common varieties being:
- Baby Bubba Hybrid
- Cajun Delight
- Louisiana Green Velvet
- Annie Oakley
- Clemson Spineless
The most common type of okra in the United States has long, fuzzy pods that grow on plants reaching as tall as eight feet. You may also find purple okra, which is another seasonal variety of the plant available in the US.
Where to Buy Okra
If you’re interested in trying this plant, you’ll need to start by purchasing the plant. Okra is in season from May through September, during which time most grocery stores sell the plant in precut, frozen bags.
If you’re lucky enough to come across fresh okra in your supermarket, you should look for a plant that’s firm but not hard. Seek out bright green pods that don’t have a lot of blemishes on them. While it’s okay for the plant to have a bit of browning, the greener it is, the fresher the plant is.
How to Store Okra
After you’ve bought some okra, you’ll need to know how to store it so that it doesn’t go bad. You can store fresh okra in your refrigerator for up to four days at a time. Just wrap the veggies in plastic or pop them in a paper bag to help them keep longer.
Once you’re ready to cook the okra, remove them from the fridge and allow them to cool to room temperature. This helps reduce the total amount of moisture they release during the cooking process.
If you grow okra at home and wound up with a huge amount, you can freeze the plants for up to a year at a time. Before you freeze them, wash and stem the plants and then blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes.
After blanching, place the okra into an ice bath. Chop them into your desired size and then flash freeze the plants.
How to Eat Okra
If you’ve managed to get your hands on some okra, regardless of whether it’s fresh or frozen, you’ll need to know how to prepare it. Luckily, there are several different ways that you can prepare this plant.
Some people will simply chomp down on okra raw. You can wash the plant and eat it much the same way as you would snap peas.
For a decadent, indulgent treat, you can also deep fry okra. Start by dipping the okra in flour or cornmeal. Then, dip it in a layer of beaten egg and roll it in the cornmeal or flour once again.
Next, deep fry the okra until it’s crisp. Serve it with a side of ketchup, mayonnaise, or barbecue sauce for a truly southern treat.
Many people also enjoy pickled okra. Simply prepare the okra in a jar of vinegar and pickling spices and allow it to soak up the brine.
When you’re ready to eat the dish, you can either add it to meats and veggies or chomp into them raw. If you’re going to pair it with meats, we recommend adding thick peppercorns and cajun seasonings to bring out the southern flavor.
One delicious way to prepare okra is to roast it in the oven. To do so, simply sprinkle the plant with a bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Then, pop the plant into the oven for a few minutes. Wait until the okra is tender and golden brown on top to remove it and chomp down on a tasty snack.
One great way to cook okra is in soup. In West Africa, this is the preferred way to cook these vegetables as you can disguise the slightly bland flavor of the plant.
Most people recommend cooking okra in beef or tomato-based soup. One popular African recipe, bamya, is a lamb soup that combines okra and tomato for a rich and hearty flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does okra taste like zucchini?
Although some people liken the flavor of okra to zucchini, zucchini is a much sweeter plant than okra. You’ll notice that okra has earthier tones than zucchini does, resulting in a pretty different flavor overall.
What does okra taste similar to?
Okra has quite a mild flavor that has decidedly grassy notes. It’s most similar in taste to green beans or eggplant.
Does okra taste bitter?
Especially if you choose to eat it raw, you may find that okra has a slightly bitter flavor. However, the plant gets sweeter the longer you cook it, as long as you don’t overdo it.