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Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

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Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 6/23/2011, 11:44 pm

Rookie Topic X: Okra

Ten weeks of Rookie Topics....wow. Where is 2011's growing season going? I hope you all are having a blast and learning as much as I am as we cruise into summertime.

This week's topic brings on another of the less common vegetables, but an easy one to grow. Many of us search long and hard for things to occupy our squares in the summer months. I, for one, have plenty of leftover squares I could use to try new things. But, okra? Isn't that the veggie that the old lady down the street grows? It certainly was for me. It apparently has more uses than just being fried. So, let's explore...

Okra (also known as gumbo), is a tall-growing, warm-season, annual vegetable from the same family as hollyhock, rose of Sharon and hibiscus. The immature pods are used for soups, canning and stews or as a fried or boiled vegetable. The hibiscus like flowers and upright plant (3 to 6 feet or more in height) have ornamental value for backyard gardens.

Okra doesn't germinate well in cool soils. It's best to wait a couple weeks after your frost date to plant them. You can certainly buy transplants, but upon researching the topic, this seems pretty uncommon. Okra reportedly grows very easily from seeds. These plants get pretty large. One per square at the closest! Plant the seed about an inch deep. Okra is not fussy about the quality of the soil. Of course, it will thrive in Mel's Mix! A VERY low maintenance plant that is perfect for the heat of summer when we don't want to spend much more time outside than is required.

The pods should be picked (usually cut) while they are tender and immature (2 to 3 inches long for most varieties). They must be picked often—at least every other day. Okra plants have short hairs that may irritate bare skin. Wear gloves and long sleeves to harvest okra. Use pruning shears for clean cuts that do not harm the rest of the plant. When the stem is difficult to cut, the pod is probably too old to use. The large pods rapidly become tough and woody. The plants grow and bear until frost, which quickly blackens and kills them. Four or five plants produce enough okra for most families unless you wish to can or freeze some for winter use.

The most common bug problems are aphids and cabbage worms. I can also tell you that multiple sources cite that okra seed does NOT keep well. You may have trouble with germination success if you don't buy fresh seed each year. Also, okra varieties, unlike certain tomato varieties, are not resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilt. Rotate crops to prevent buildup of crop-specific strains of these diseases in your garden. Refrigerate unwashed, dry okra pods in the vegetable crisper, loosely wrapped in perforated plastic bags. Wet pods will quickly mold and become slimy. Okra will keep for only two or three days. When the ridges and tips of the pod start to turn dark, use it or lose it. Once it starts to darken, okra will quickly deteriorate.

Here are two recipes I found worth trying...

Okra and Corn with Tomatoes

Serve this Carolina favorite over a bowl of long-grain rice with a piece of hot cornbread. The okra should be young, not longer than 2 inches. Vine ripen tomatoes and fresh bell peppers add to the richness of this dish.


2 tablespoons each butter and canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced into rounds
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon each thyme, red pepper flakes and basil
1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
3 large fresh ripe, tomatoes seeded and chopped
4 ears corn, remove kernels, about 2 cups
(may use frozen or canned whole kernel, drained)
2 cups small okra pods, left whole or 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1/2 cup water or chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
In a 10 inch iron skillet or heavy pan, heat olive oil and add onions, bay leaves, thyme, basil, and red pepper flakes. Sauté, and stir until onions are limp add bell pepper and continue cooking until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, okra, water, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn and cook 5 minutes longer. Taste, adjust seasoning if needed. Serve hot.
Makes 6 servings.

Okra and Green Beans

This dish tastes even better after refrigerating overnight. The flavors blend into a wonderful taste sensation. Serve it warm or cold. This dish can also be oven-baked. Instead of simmering, lightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.


3/4 pound fresh okra, uncut
4 tablespoons olive oil
Vinegar (optional)
1 medium onion, diced
3/4 pound fresh green beans
2 large garlic cloves, crushed then chopped
1 cup water plus 2 tablespoonssalt and freshly ground pepper
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
Wash okra pods, trim stems, do not remove caps. If desired soak okra in vinegar for 30 minutes to remove some of the stickiness. Rinse well and drain. Wash beans and cut into 3 inch lengths. Combine water, tomato paste, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in a sauce pan and mix well.
Heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comet to boil. Add okra and beans and additional water if necessary to almost cover vegetables.
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently until vegetables are crisp-tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Makes 6 servings.

Give okra a shot when you are wondering what to grow in your summer garden. And, don't forget to post the pictures.

Hint: I can tell you I plan to grow my bush beans and try recipe #2 someday. And, I can't wait to toss some bacon in there with it. Can you just imagine how that would taste? Holy cow!!

As always Happy Gardening!

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  staf74 on 6/23/2011, 11:52 pm

10 weeks already !!!! Jeesh.

BTW - These have been a tremendous hit on the forum. Great job getting this going BBG AND still adding to it.

Okra grows like a weed down here and I'm almost ashamed to admit that this Carolinian summer staple has not made it into my SFG. As a northern transplant, I've somehow resisted the urge. So many people I know grow it that it's easy to obtain but after reading another great rookie topic post, now I'm rethinking that choice.

Oh well...next summer.....or.....perhaps....I do have a couple of squares.....hmmmmm

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  westie42 on 6/24/2011, 12:42 am

While a carpet bagger in the 80's this northern boy learned to appreciate okra when living in Tx, Al and FL and drove more roads than not everywhere in between. Lubbys and Piccadilly cafeterias got me started enjoying this vegetable. Now I have a couple squares of it ahhm and a row if it elsewhere too. Thanks for the timely topic and the recipes will be tried here. Better clarify that it was the 1980's but you know what was still a constant topic down there. Probably the only thing that disappointed and hurt me about our great enjoyable South.

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Okra Planted

Post  Reverend Curlee on 6/24/2011, 1:39 am

I'm growing Okra this year. My British Wife tried Okra last year for the first time and loved it! I just put it in with Chicken, Mushrooms, Bell Peppers, etc... She really liked it. I also added some to my Thai Curry. Very nice. I've planted seeds in 2 squares. One has sprouted, one has not. Might have to replant the second. What we don't eat fresh I'll freeze.

RC

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  shannon1 on 6/24/2011, 2:33 am

Topic X, sounds like a spy novel.
Just planted some about 2 weeks ago and now it is realy taking off. There are not a lot of things to plant down here this time of year but it seems the hotter the better for okra. Just remember most "spineless" breeds just mean the pod is spineless not the whole plant so still wear gloves when working with most okras. There are so many breeds to choose from and I had a hard time picking one. I'm growing Jade what kinds are you guys growing?

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  FarmerValerie on 6/24/2011, 9:05 am

GREAT post and topic BBG. For those of you who are thinking "I thought Gumbo was a Cajun dish", both you and BBG are correct. I went and grabbed my favorite cook book after reading this post to back him up. Down in Cajun country the dish Gumbo means "with okra". File` which is used to thicken chicken Gumbo (and seafood gumbo at my house) is made from sassafras, which the Choctaw word for sassafras is Kombo, so some even wonder if the cajun dish Gumbo is from Choctaw origin, but most believe the name comes from the African word for okara, which was used to thicken the dish.

Now that I am starving (it's always Gumbo season at my house) I thought I would share how to make a Roux in hopes someone would share their grandma's method for fried okra, you know the kind where the snot has been fried out of it, cause this stuff is snotty.

Basic Roux
2/3 cup flour
3/4 cup oil

Mix the two in a heavy iron pot (cast iron, I use my skillet because I dont' have a dutch oven or one of those big pans you hang over a camp fire) thoroughly before you turn on the heat. Turn heat on medium to low, stirring constantly (this means you stir until your arm falls off, and the only reason you stop is that the fire department has to remove you from the house-if it's on fire). Stir the bottom of the pot, so that nothing sticks. When it reaches the done point, it will be done quick, it's just slow getting there, but you cannot leave this stuff for even a second, because it gets hot and will burn before you know it. It is done when it reaches a rich dark brown, you can even "smell" that it's done, remove it from the heat immediately, as I said it will burn if left on too long. You can add water to lower the temperature SLIGHTLY, but make sure it's hot water. I have a pan of water on the stove heating while I am doing my Roux. You can also add chopped onions and/or bell peppers to lower the temperature. Stir, return to heat, add remaining ingredients for your stew or Gumbo. This should be enough roux for stew with 1 hen or a Gumbo with 2 pounds of shrimp.

What you put in your Gumbo is up to you, usuallly shell fish, sausage, domestic or wild fowl are used, sometimes around here we don't have enough of one, so we use a bit of all of them. If you have company show up, just add water. I like to let it cook for about 3 hours, then toss in 1/2 cup of rice, when the rice is done, so is the Gumbo, as always if you use a bay leaf in your dish, don't forget to remove it!!!

Thanks BBG, this gave me an excuse to sit and browse through my favorite cookbook, it's in a spot that I can grab it and run if the house catches fire, which is funny because the binding on the book was burned by one of my kids and I keep it in a ziplock baggie!!!!

If you grow Okra, please please share pictures, and how your Okra grew, I may actually try this one next year. The only thing I know about growing Okra is it's usually the last thing brought in from the garden.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 6/24/2011, 10:34 am

@westie42 wrote: Lubbys and Piccadilly cafeterias got me started enjoying this vegetable.

This was too funny!! We used to drive 45 minutes just to get to a Luby's. I am a funny eater, always have been. I have my staples...and don't often vary. When a teen, my mom swore I'd either have heart problems early in life or just turn into a cheeseburger. Things may change, but not that much. Luby's used to serve the BEST breaded cod filets. It's really all I would eat there. I have spent the majority of my adult life trying to replace that taste with every brand imaginable and I just can't seem to find the right one. (If familiar, it's like the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall keeps searching for the best hamburger in NYC)

And, my grandparents called EVERY cafeteria Piccadilly's. It didn't matter what the actual name was, except for one. The Old Country Buffet. They called that one "The Country Bucket."

Glad y'all are enjoying the okra topic. Don't forget to post your pictures....and recipes. I may grab my brother's for fried okra. He literally was turned onto okra from the "old lady down the street" when he was about 10. Being 35 now, he's a veteran for sure.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  busygirl on 7/6/2011, 6:00 am

@Reverend Curlee wrote:I'm growing Okra this year. My British Wife tried Okra last year for the first time and loved it! I just put it in with Chicken, Mushrooms, Bell Peppers, etc... She really liked it. I also added some to my Thai Curry. Very nice. I've planted seeds in 2 squares. One has sprouted, one has not. Might have to replant the second. What we don't eat fresh I'll freeze.

RC

Aw man! I can't believe I missed this thread when it was started! Curlee, PLEASE let me know how your okra grows in zone 6. I grew up in the south and we always had it in the garden but didn't even consider it when starting my garden here because Ohioans don't seem to realize that it exists. Generally, I can barely find it frozen, have only seen it "fresh" in ONE store (it wasn't looking that good by the time I saw it and was WAY over sized), and didn't see any okra in the seed displays at the stores this spring.

I thought it probably wasn't hot long enough up here to grow it. Now I am tempted to see if I can find some seed online and still get some in for this year....

....Anyway....

Pickled okra ROCKS and it is worth learning to can just to be able to have it. Laughing I will try to dig out and decipher my grandmother's "recipe" and post it later. Generally all she ever did when asked for a recipe was jot down a few cryptic guidelines on the back of an envelope, so it is always an adventure making those of her dishes that didn't make it into my regular cooking repertoire.


Our harvesting guide was to never let a pod get longer than your index finger.

For those of you shy about the slime, I have heard that a dash of turmeric will help cut down on it but it doesn't bother me so I have never tried it.


Val, I think the secret to snot-free fried okra is high heat. Don't know how grandma did it, but my okra breading always consisted of (and hopefully will again if I find out I can grow it up here--I am stupid excited about the prospect):

yellow corn meal
salt
black pepper
cayenne pepper

(ratios to taste, and yes, I know I am worse than my grandmother about not having "recipes.")

I am sure that my grandmother probably used solid Crisco, but any high heat oil will do (peanut or canola for me). I never deep fried it, just used about an inch of oil in a heavy skillet. Cast iron if you have it.

Sometimes it is more about the process than ingredients, so I will try to deconstruct my method. If I get too long winded or boring, you have the basics and can skip the rest.

Instead of baggies, I use a coffee can for most of my coating/breading activities. You can still shake the dickens out of it to coat stuff well, but re-use it forever.

I start by heating the oil and slicing enough okra for a skillet-full then mix my coating ingredients. That gives the slices a little bit of time to secret enough slime so the coating sticks but not so much that it becomes a mess. Thoroughly coat the okra in the corn meal mixture, shake off the extra and fry on high heat until crisp.

While that batch is browning, I cut up the next skillet-full but don't coat it until the first batch is out of the skillet.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  westie42 on 7/7/2011, 1:38 am

I am in zone 4 and it does well here at least by a northerners standard of a dozen or more pods per stalk. This year is kinda different it is getting pods at knee high rather than shoulder hight like last year from the same seed package. Not sure what to make of that but have fingers crossed for a satisfactory harvest again. Will also be looking for the pickled recipe if you get it posted. Nice to know about the built in size gauge and using turmeric to tame the slime. Interestingly my Afghani friends love okra it is a staple there and turmeric is in almost everything they fix which is a lot of curry dishes. Sounds like okra and turmeric is a natural pairing. The last thing canned from my garden is a vegetable soup using anything still left in the garden tomatoes, green beans, potatoes,cabbage, carrots, onions, leeks, herbs, barley and sliced okra even if I have to buy it frozen is the center piece. Turmeric is in it too making it close to a gumbo. The soup is a hit all winter long usually on Friday nights for some unknown reason there is no set recipe just build as I go.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  shannon1 on 7/7/2011, 11:35 pm

"Pickled okra ROCKS and it is worth learning to can just to be able to have it. Laughing I will try to dig out and decipher my grandmother's "recipe" and post it later. " Thanks busy girl I can't wait.

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Updates Will be posted here.

Post  Reverend Curlee on 7/9/2011, 12:18 am

Busy Girl, I will keep you informed. The first seed germinated quickly and that plant is growing well although there are holes in the leaves from critters. The second seed germinated about 2 weeks ago and is growing well. I can't wait till it starts producing.

RC

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Blossoms

Post  Reverend Curlee on 8/21/2011, 11:03 am

I finally have a couple Blossoms ready to open on my Okra and a few more on the way. It's been approximately 68 days since seeds were planted in the squares.

RC

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  FarmerValerie on 8/23/2011, 8:12 am

Those of you who have okra growing, please share pictures and regular updates, it makes the topic so much more enjoyable!!!

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  Lurach on 8/23/2011, 12:46 pm

I have two Clemson spineless plants that are growing like crazy. I read somewhere about topping okra when it's young, so I decided to experiment and topped one while leaving the other alone. The one I let be is almost 4 ft tall now and produces pretty well (I think...new to gardening, so I'm not completely sure what's normal); the one I topped is a bit shorter, but it has two main branches instead of one and I get almost twice as many pods from it. So I will definitely be topping all future plantings. Just thought I'd share my experience.

The blooms are gorgeous! It's a shame they only last half a day before they close up shop and transform into okra pods. Hubby just finally got to see them over the weekend. They're usually bloomed out before he gets home from work. I'll try to get some pix tomorrow and post them.

I'm loving all the recipes! The only way I know how to cook okra is fried or okra-and-tomatoes, and I haven't perfected either of those. Can't wait to try out some of y'all's recipes. =)

~Lu

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  sceleste54 on 8/23/2011, 11:04 pm

I think Okra will grow anywhere you have warm weather for a couple of months, I've always had good luck with it.. It's disease and insect resistant, handles heat and humidity with no problem..I grew up eating it breaded with cornmeal and fried.. Thats still my favorite way, but since I'm older now and have to at least try to adhere to "Healthy Eating" I also have found that stir frying it in the oriental fashion is quite tasty.. like popcorn I can't leave it unfinished..Stir fry in a wok in just a couple of teaspoons of oil of your choice.. I usually use Coconut oil but Bacon Grease is extra tasty !! Slice it up, stir fry until its tender and darkens in color.. Low fat, Low Carb, and most tasty !!

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  AprilakaCCIL on 8/23/2011, 11:15 pm

Okay...Maybe I've been harvesting my Okra much later then the norm. 2-3 inches? I've been cutting them off at 4-6 inches.
They seem fine though--taste is good. Maybe this week I'll cut them off at 2-3 inches and compare taste. Very Happy

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  Reverend Curlee on 8/25/2011, 1:42 am

I have an India Indian Stuffed Okra Recipe I will post once I've tried it myself. I have more blossoms and can see the okra fruit growing where blossoms have fallen off.

RC

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  camprn on 3/11/2012, 12:21 am

I think I may give this a try this year. The only time I ate okra it was slimy in soup, but I have been told it's very tasty when fried...

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love okra

Post  curio on 3/11/2012, 12:38 am

I love okra, and don't have the climate here to grow it Sad
It loves heat and sun, and doesn't do well in cool or damp climates. They grow it in Eastern Washington, where the climate is much different than what we have where I live.
I hope you have success with it, as it's usually expensive to buy outside the south.

It IS good fried, particularly if rolled in corn meal and fried in some bacon drippings.... YUM

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Okra Blossom Pictures

Post  braim5 on 3/11/2012, 9:40 am



Such a beautiful bloom!



This is a picture of my okra last year planted in a traditional garden. This year I will try this in SFG. I love okra!



Here is a closer view of a couple of the blooms facing each other.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  walshevak on 3/11/2012, 9:57 am

Laughing That lovely hibiscus looking blossom should even get past an evil HOA.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  camprn on 3/11/2012, 10:03 am

@walshevak wrote:Laughing That lovely hibiscus looking blossom should even get past an evil HOA.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  shannon1 on 3/12/2012, 12:40 am

Not a big fan of the pods, slimy, but loved the plant I grew last year for friends and fam. Then some one told me about makeing okra chips in a dehydrater sounded like a good idea but the okra was done by then.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  dgram41 on 4/30/2012, 11:42 pm

@shannon1 wrote:Not a big fan of the pods, slimy, but loved the plant I grew last year for friends and fam. Then some one told me about makeing okra chips in a dehydrater sounded like a good idea but the okra was done by then.

Hey y'all! I'm new to the forum & I'm a southern girl. Slimy okra is overcooked okra. Heat your water or broth to a boil (only about 1 inch of liquid). Add okra & sea salt with fresh ground pepper & turn heat down to medium. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes - remove from heat - cover & let sit for a few minutes before serving. Won't be a "slime" in sight!

dgram41

Posts : 6
Join date : 2012-04-17
Location : Gilbert, SC

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

Post  Turan on 5/5/2012, 9:17 pm

Being a northerner who is going to try to grow okra this year.... Wish me luck....

Here they are in their soil blocks with 4 leaves now! Is it normal for the true leaves to be so yellow at first? I thought I added a little fertilizer mix of blood meal/bonemeal/ kelp so it should have nutrients.



Turan

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Join date : 2012-03-29
Location : Gallatin Valley, Montana, Intermountain zone 4

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XI: OKRA!!

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