Story and images by Lisa L. Bynum
Okra is a very under-rated fruit. Yes, it’s a fruit!
Not only is it easy to grow in a backyard garden, but it’s loaded with vitamins and nutrients, low in calories and carbohydrates, and high in protein. However, beyond tossing cut pods in a pot of gumbo or rolling it in cornmeal to be fried, most people don’t know what else to do with okra. (Turns out okra is very versatile if you know how to prepare it!)
Oven Roasted Okra
Cutting the okra in half before roasting prevents the okra from being slimy. Ingredients:
1 lb. fresh okra
1 1/2 Tablespoons paprika
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Cut off the stems and cut the okra in half lengthwise.
In a small bowl, combine all the seasonings.
Place the okra in a medium mixing bowl or gallon-size plastic freezer bag. Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the okra, followed by the seasoning mixture. Stir until the okra is evenly coated.
Spread the okra in an even layer on a foil-lined, greased baking sheet. Roast for 10-15 minutes until the okra is tender and starting to brown in some places.
Okra Cornmeal Cakes Serves 4
1 cup self-rising white cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup fresh or frozen okra, stems trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Vegetable oil for frying
In a medium mixing bowl, combine self-rising white cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder and cayenne.
Add the buttermilk and eggs and stir to combine.
Gently fold in the okra until it is dispersed through the batter evenly.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
Scoop 1/4 cup of the batter into the hot oil. Cook the cornmeal hoe cakes for about 2 to 3 minutes until the bottoms are brown and bubbles form on the tops and edges. Turn and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes until the other side is golden brown.
Remove the cakes to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain the grease. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Spicy Pickled Okra Makes between 2-4 pints, depending on number and size of okra Ingredients:
2 teaspoons dill seed
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dill weed or 1 large dill head per jar
1 teaspoon mustard seed
¼ cup dried onion
1-3 whole jalapeños or other hot peppers, seeded and chopped
2 ¼ cups water
1 ¼ cups apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
2-4 clean pint jars
Fresh whole okra, rinsed
Combine the dill seed, minced garlic, dill weed, mustard seed, onion, jalapeños, water, vinegar and salt in a medium saucepan.
Bring the brine to a simmer. Heat until the salt is dissolved.
Pack the okra into clean pint jars.
Pour the brine over the okra, leaving ¼-inch of headspace between the contents of the jar and the rim. Top the jar with a lid.
Place the okra in the refrigerator or process for 15 minutes using the water bath canning method.
Okra is ready to eat after three weeks.