It is believed that Okra had its beginnings in Africa and has spread throughout the world to places such as the United States and Japan. And, okra was cultivated by the Egyptians as far back as the times of Cleopatra. Okra can be enjoyed in many recipes. During World War II okra was even used as a replacement to brew coffee since the okra seeds were used as beans.
Okra which is sometimes called Gumbo is also known by the scientific names Abelmoschus esculentus and Hibiscus esculentus. It does not like to be transplanted therefore it is best to directly sow your okra seeds in the garden. It is important to wait to plant until all danger of frost has passed.
Okra needs quite a bit of room to grow so plant your seeds about 15 inches apart. In order to ensure an adequate amount of okra plants, it is best to plant 3 seeds together at each spot then thin down to 1 plant when they reach about 6 inches in height. Okra is a warm weather loving plant and will not grow well when the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some commonly grown varieties of okra include: Annie Oakley, Red Burgundy, Cow Horn, Jade, Clemson Spineless, and Dwarf Green Long Pod. Okra matures in approximately 60 days. It is best to pick your okra pods when they are 3 inches in length.
Okra Nutritional Values
For 1/2 cup sliced, cooked okra:
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Protein 1.52 g
Carbohydrate 5.76 g
Vitamin A 460 IU
Vitamin C 13.04 mg
Folic acid 36.5 mcg
Calcium 50.4 mg
Iron 0.4 mg
Potassium 256.6 mg
Magnesium 46 mg
For 1 cup raw okra:
Dietary Fiber 3.2 g
Fat 0.1 g
Protein 2.0 g
Carbohydrate 7.6 g
Vitamin A 660 IU
Vitamin C 21 mg
Folate 87.8 mcg
Magnesium 57 mg
Okra Health Benefits
Okra is a very high fiber food which allows it to help regulate and stabilize blood sugars. The fiber in okra also works as a probiotic feeding the good bacteria found in the digestive system. Okra has even successfully been used as an experimental blood plasma replacement. Because okra is high in Vitamin C it is beneficial as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Cooking with Okra
Okra is wonderful cooked in many ways. It can be lightly breaded and fried, added to soups and stews, and so much more. It is a key ingredient in many gumbo recipes. Okra may also be frozen or pickled and canned to extend the length of time this vegetable may be enjoyed. It is important to note that okra must be blanched before freezing.
Concerns and Cautions about Okra
Picking okra when wet can cause it to discolor; however, this does not affect it in any adverse way other than how it looks.
Okra cooks best from the fresh state. When okra is cooked from frozen it is important to remove as much of the extra moisture as possible. In order to preserve many of the vitamins and nutrients in fresh okra it may be advised to cook at as low a temperature or as little time as possible.
Want to learn more about the health benefits of okra?