Bhindi on Plant
Everything you ever wanted to know about okra, its origins, use as a vegetable, nutritional values and reputed medicinal properties. Including some carefully selected okra recipes
which are so delicious they will go a long way to changing the mind of anyone who doesn't like this fantastic vegetable.
Amongst the okra recipes which are included are great favourites such as okra soup, curried okra, fried okra, okra and shrimp, and okra gumbo. Together with some less well-known ones such as okra palm oil stew, bhindi spiced masala, and two Moroccan okra tagine recipes. In addition there are many others, these recipes should give you some idea of the versatility of this African vegetable.
OKRA ORIGINS and HISTORY
There is some dispute as to whether okra originated in Asia or Africa; however the preponderance of evidence suggests that it is indigenous to Africa. It is thought that okra found its way to India relatively early in India's history, it was also transported to the Americas and Caribbean by African slaves some three centuries ago.
In addition to being extremely popular in various parts of Africa, India and Asia okra is also popular in the Caribbean and the southern United States.Okra is a member of the Mallow family
and is closely related to the Hibiscus and cotton plants, it bears large yellow flowers and is sometimes planted in flower gardens for the display of beautiful flowers it produces.
In many African dialects the word for okra sounds similar to gumbo. In Tshiluna it is called ki-ngumbo; the Portuguese thought that quillobo another African word for okra sounded like quingombo. Okra is often referred to as gumbo for these reasons.
In the United States certain types of stews containing okra are often called gumbos, in fact it is technically incorrect to call a recipe which doesn't contain okra a gumbo
OKRA AS A FOOD VEGETABLE:
Okra is available fresh during most of the year
in the Southern States, and isgenerally obtainable from May to October in other areas. (It is of course available throughout the year in Africa and tropical Asia.) Okra can also be obtained frozen, canned and pickled.
It is imperative that fresh Okra is picked young. After the pod is more than 8 days old it becomes almost worthless as an ingredient in recipes. If you buy fresh Okra you should get young pods without any signs of bruising. The Okra pods should be tender but not soft. You shouldn't buy pods if they are any longer than 4 inches, as this is a sign that they have been left too long before picking.
You should prepare Okra as soon as possible after it has been picked. However, if necessary you may store the Okra pods in a refrigerator after first placing them in a paper bag or wrapping in an absorbent paper towel. Do not attempt to keep Okra Pods in closed plastic bags or containers as the pods will weep and become messy. Do not keep fresh Okra for more than 3 days under refrigeration.
Okra recipes may call for the pod to be used raw, pickled, fried, boiled, roasted, grilled or stuffed. Okra can be served on its own, as a condiment, in soups, stews, gravies, with meat fish or poultry and compliments tomatoes, onions, eggplant, corn and peppers. Okra's leaves and flowers are also edible and may be cooked in a similar fashion to beetroot, pumpkin or dandelion leaves, they may also be eaten raw in salads.
Because okra is a mucilaginous plant, which gives a sticky and somewhat slippery substance when cut, it is often used in recipes as a thickening agent in soups and stews, it is very often the secret super recipe ingredient that makes ketchup stick in the bottle no matter how much you shake it.... However when used raw or as a vegetable it shouldn't be cut into too small pieces as the smaller it is cut the stickier it becomes.
Many people prefer to eat okra fried or breaded as this reduces its slipperiness, however when used in soups, stews and gumbo's this is unnoticeable. Use a little vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice or wine in your okra recipes as this also helps to reduce its slipperiness.
Okra also has extremely high potential as a vegetable oil, its oil yield per hectare been second only to that of sunflowers.
NUTRITIONAL PROPERTIES OF OKRA:
Okra contains no cholesterol very low total fats and is very high in folates, thiamine, vitamins C, A and K as well as significant quantities of niacin vitamin E. pantothenic acid pyridoxine and riboflavin.
Okra also contains significant quantities of minerals such as calcium, iron magnesium manganese phosphorus and zinc.
MEDICINAL PROPERTIES OF OKRA:
Okra has long been known and used as a very effective but very gentle laxative
this is due to its very high fibre content together with its gelatinous substances which absorb water, swell and so ensure the bulky stools that prevent constipation.
It is also reputed to help lower serum cholesterol in the blood stream and as a stabilisation agent for blood sugar in diabetics. This is because of its high fibre content which makes it a have a very low glycaemic index.
Certain sections of the plant are also reputed to have diuretic properties.Given its nutritional value, reputed health benefits, and the variety of ways in which it can be prepared it comes as no surprise that okra features as an ingredient in so many recipes and that okra recipes are extremely popular in certain parts of the world where those in the know are aware of how to cook it properly.
It is certainly worth investigating the Okra recipes on this site I am sure that you will find some that are to your taste.
Have a look at all the okra recipes on this site by accessing them through the Okra recipes section of the menu, try them and enjoy!Okra & Okra Recipes Updated February 25, 2012: Added PictureImage: Lavoview /