OkraPlant.net - The best online resource about okra  Facts • Benefits • Recipes

 

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You will find here everything you need to know about okra: where it comes from, how it tastes, what are okra's health benefits and what part of it is used as an ingredient.

Check also the okra facts page to find out its nutritional properties and other useful tips.

There is also a very "tasty section" okra recipes, where you'll find the most delicious ways to cook okra, step by step. You may also find useful our guide: how to prepare okra. We hope you enjoy it!

 
 

What is okra?

Okra is a relative of the hibiscus flower and comes from the tropics of the eastern hemisphere.

Okra's origins

Its exact place of origin is Abyssinia, an area which includes present-day Ethiopia, the mountains of Eritrea and the eastern highlands of Sudan.

Today, okra is widely cultivated in the tropics and subtropics of the western hemisphere, and thrives in most tropical Asian countries, including Malaysia, India, Indonesia as well as Africa and the Caribbean.

Although it was cultivated in Egypt for hundreds of years, there was not much record of it.

Okra PlantIt was probably taken to Egypt by Muslims from the east who conquered the land in the 7th century.

The plant made its way from Ethiopia to Arabia across the Red Sea and from there, it spread to the Mediterranean countries and to India after the beginning of the Christian era.

French colonists introduced okra to the Americas in the early 1700s, hence its prominence in the French-influenced cuisine of Louisiana.

But okra arrived in the New World before 1658; it came from West Africa to Brazil and it was called Surinam.

Africa gave okra its name too. The word "okra" is derived from nkuruma, the word for okra in the Twi language of West Africa.

Okra Production Areas 

Okra production on the map
(source: wikipedia.org)

Other useful info about okra

These days, most people call okra ladies' finger, because of its long, slender, elegant pointed green pod.

Its other names include gumbo in America's Deep South, bhindi in India, and bamies in the eastern Mediterranean and Arab countries. In Malay, it is called bendi, a derivative from Hindi.

The plant is a fast-growing shrub which can grow to about two metres.

Okra thrives in high temperatures and is tolerant of high rainfall. Several varieties are cultivated in Malaysia, and the pods vary in length, shape and colour.

Okra plan leaves and flowerThe leaves are heart-shaped and the yellow flowers have a crimson centre. The pod, hairy at the base, is long and tapering, and contains numerous oval seeds.

Young pods may be harvested from between two and six months from sowing, and about 5-10 days after flowering.

Harvesting of young pods is recommended since mature ones become fibrous.

How to use okra

okra fruitsSome people don't appreciate okra, considering it too "gooey", or just simply do not know how to cook it.

A common mistake is selecting pods which are far too old. When buying, look for bright, fresh, green pods about 10cm long that feel firm and crisp. Avoid blemished pods. The storage period is normally up to 10 days.

The green pods, resembling immature bananas, secrete a mucilaginous or glutinous substance when cooking, which acts as a thickener in soups and
stews.

A notable dish is, of course, the gumbo of southern United States. The word "gumbo" was originally a synonym of okra in the Bantu language, and is still used in America. It is an aromatic soup-stew characteristic of the Creole cuisine of Louisiana, combining African, American, Indian and European elements. Okra, an essential ingredient, is counted on for its ability to give body to the sauce.

okra recipesThere are many ways to prepare okra. The pods can be eaten raw in salads.

They can be sliced, dipped in cornflour and deep fried but more popularly, they are used in soups and stews. In recent years, the okra has become an important commercial crop in southern United States.

In Malaysia and other Asian countries, okra is widely featured in curries. Together with chilli and brinjal, okra is also used to make Yong Tow Foo. It is sliced open and its centre emptied, and stuffed with fish or meat paste.

If you want to give it a try visit our okra recipes section. Enjoy!