Thursday, September 23, 2021

Fun With Okra

Without exception, my family loves okra. Okra loves hot weather, which is why it is such a Southern thing, but it is possible to grow it around here and I have found it from some local farmers occasionally. But to really ensure an adequate supply, we have started growing it in our backyard!

green beans on left, tomatoes in back, okra on front right

Our first crop was last summer - we started the plants from seed, mainly my husband driving this with his outsize love for okra, and were astonished at everything about them. The okra plants get about 8' tall and their stalks are woody like trees, so it's not easy to get them out of the garden in the fall. The pods grow from gorgeous hibiscus-like flowers. And the pods grow fast. We try to harvest them at 3-5" long, but even when we miss some and they are longer than that, they have stayed tender and not woody, thank goodness. 

This picture has a funny story. I picked the garden in the morning, and then I wanted a picture of a person with the okra plants to give you some idea of their height. I brought my husband outside to help, and I am struggling to hold all the okra pods he found after I thought I had picked all of them! He called me "okra-blind," oh my word. I retorted that the pods grew big enough in the few hours between pickings! Also, we are getting about a quart of okra pods daily right now from 10 plants. Amazing.

Okra pods keep pretty well in the fridge. My go-to recipe is to slice the pods in coins, toss with some flour and cornmeal and a seasoned salt or equivalent, then fry in a hot oiled pan until they get some crispy, browned edges. We never have leftovers!

Extremely proud to have okra, green beans, and tomato pesto (on pasta) all from our backyard garden!

Another easy method is to oil the pods lightly, salt and pepper, then grill until they are browned in places and even splitting open a little. So so so good. 

When time permits, I make gumbo. And I was astonished to see at this linked blog post that we also grew okra in 2010. I have no memory of that whatsoever! 

This year, I also pickled some okra because there was so much on hand. I used the Ball Blue Book recipe, which is essentially the same as the dilly beans I like to can.

If you have okra recipes to recommend, please do!


Public service announcement: I absolutely re-use my canning lids if they are free of nicks, dents, rust, and the like.  I have been doing this for years. There was (is?) a canning lid shortage due to the pandemic, but I recommend this practice for economical reasons even when there is not a shortage. I have found no difference between lids that went through a waterbath or through the pressure canner. The main thing is to reuse lids in good condition. Iffy lids are used on jars that are used for food storage in the freezer or elsewhere, or recycled in my metal bin that I take to a salvage yard.


A word about how I did those okra pickles: I looked at the recipe one night, pulled the jars from the basement the next morning while waiting for the coffee, washed them later in the morning while on a phone call, stuffed the okra pods and garlic cloves in the jars in the afternoon before picking up Phoebe, mixed the brine and filled the canner after picking up Phoebe, and finally assembled the jars and canned their butts right before we went out the door again to Ben's game. It goes to show that little chunks of time can add up to a finished project. Dogged determination gets everything done, right? We choose what we spend our precious time on, and food preservation is important to me, but dang, family life is busy. 

18 comments:

  1. Wow! I've never seen okra growing and it is beautiful! I wish I liked it... the few times I have had okra it was slimy and bitter.
    I also reuse my canning lids. If they are in good shape I'll put them through the water bath again. I use them 3 or 4 times and then retire them to pantry, freezer or travel use. (If I plan on giving canned foods away I try to use a new lid.)
    'Dogged determination gets everything done, right?' It's the only thing!

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    1. Just read that to cook okra successfully, cooks should not use water - just oil. The exception would be soup and gumbo, where the okra goo helps thicken things. And when I pickled it, I was careful not not cut into the pods and accidentally release the goo. I hope you have some intelligently prepared okra sometime :)

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  2. I've never seen an okra plant and I've never tried okra here in Australia. The plants are so tall !

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    1. Interesting! Australia would certainly have enough heat to make okra happy.

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  3. Wow I didn't know okras got that big! I've been hearing from some other people about reusing canning lids as long as they're not dented dinged or the rubber isn't problematic. I did actually buy some Tattler reusable canning lids this summer. I'm keeping those for next year. I think I may start saving my webs especially since you're still such an ongoing shortage and reuse them. Good for you growing such a great crop!

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  4. We love okra here. The spineless (which is what it looks like you're growing) doesn't get woody when they get big but other varieties do. And in particular weather, the okra has to be picked twice a day, absolutely. I'm growing a red variety this year that is slightly easier to see the okra for picking, but I still occasionally miss one or two. We fry it, roast it, grill it and yep, pickle it. I use the Joy of Pickling recipe (apple cider vinegar, salt, hot pepper, dill seed, garlic) and try to use the smaller, more tender okra in my pickles.

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    1. Ah, yes, we do grow a spineless variety (the only variety I could find in the store actually), and now I understand why it's been so great! Thanks, Becky. And good tip on red okra for visibility. I'll remember that when I order seeds.

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  5. By the way look at labels when you buy apple cider vinegar. Some is apple cider FLAVORED vinegar - probably not what you want.

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    1. We totally fell for that last year. What the heck?! It never even occurred to me to check/look more closely. I should have known that price was too good to be true...

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  6. I am an okra addict also. I have tried so cooking techniques over the years and have finally settled on one that is easy & the best in taste/texture....I simply saute them whole (I no longer cut off the stems, I just eat them too; I no longer coat them in egg, flour, etc...they simply do not need it IMO
    ) in the pan (EVOO, coconut oil or ghee) with some salt, sometimes some tumeric and then eat them plain or dip them in some fresh horseradish mixed in some sour cream. It is one of my most favorite dishes & is so easy.

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    1. Oh yum, we will try that! Had curried okra tonight for dinner...

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  7. Matt and I have pondered that reuse-the-canning-lid thing. I'm reassured by your take on it.

    I don't think I've ever had okra. Now I want to try growing it just for the flowers and cool plant alone! As it happens, two of my blogfriends have been talking okra this week. Must be the okra season! Enjoy! (And hooray for a veggie that is so universally beloved by your household!!)

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  8. It is a very showy plant! And maybe you will like eating it as well - it's versatile and delicious.

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  9. I oil a baking sheet and toss the okra in cornmeal and s&p. Bake at 400 degrees until browned and crispy.

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  10. I love Okra in my Vegetable soup (or Beef and Veggies). Nutritional Yeast is great sprinkled on them too.

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  11. Just found out that older-style pressure canners with the dial can be converted to the whistle kind. Who knew!

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