Okra is native to tropical Africa, where it has been cultivated for many centuries. It is now widely grown in warm regions. For many years it has held an important place among the garden vegetables of the southern states.
The young and tender seed pods of okra are used to give a pleasant flavor and provide thickening for soups and stews. In Louisiana, okra is used in Creole cookers and is the “gumbo” used in many dishes. It is excellent also as a boiled vegetable. Just wash it, boil about ten minutes in salted water until tender, drain, and serve with butter or lemon butter. Okra and tomatoes make a fine combination. Raw sliced okra is good in salads. Okra should preferably be cooked in stainless steel, agate, porcelain, earthenware, or glass utensils. Copper, brass, iron, or tin will cause the okra to discolor, turn black, and look unappetizing.
Okra is a soft-stemmed annual of the mallow family and is closely related to the shrubby althea. It grows three to five feet high, and bears yellow flowers which are followed by fruiting capsules or seed pods.
There are three general types of okra: tall green, dwarf green, and ladyfinger. Each of these in again divided according to length and color of the pods. Varieties in most common use are known to the seed trade as Perkins Mammoth, Long Green, Dwarf Green, and White Velvet. Clemson Spineless is of the same type as Perkins Mammoth Podded but has spineless pods and somewhat sparse foliage, making it less troublesome to harvest than other varieties.
Young, tender, fresh, clean pods of small to medium size usually are of good quality. Pods should snap or puncture easily. Pods that have passed their prime look dull and dry. They are usually woody, and the seeds are hard. If held too long, they are likely to become shriveled and discolored, and lack flavor.
Therapeutic Value of Okra
The sodium content of okra is very high. It also contains a vegetable mucin that is soothing to the irritated membranes of the intestinal tract. Okra has an alkaline reaction.
Okra is made into tablets, and they are valuable in replenishing a sodium deficiency in the body and in replacing sodium lost through excessive perspiration. The tablets are also good for ulcers of the stomach.
This low-calorie vegetable helps keep the joints limber. Okra powder is very good to include in broths and soups. Because it contains a high amount of sodium, it is good for elderly people.
Nutrients in one pound of Okra
Protein: 9.4 g
Fat: 0.8 g
Carbohydrates: 29.6 g
Calcium: 328 mg
Phosphorus: 199 mg
Iron: 2.8 mg
Vitamin A: 2030 I.U.
Thiamine: 0.49 mg
Riboflavin: 0.42 mg
Niacin: 2.8 mg
Ascorbic acid: 121 mg