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?
Check out these websites for more information:
Health and Nutritional Information
Okra Nutritional and Gardening Information
Roger Groot says
Was reading the nutrients when cooked I question the accuracy of your nutrients as most or all are lost when cooked.I eat okra raw like a apple,as well as zuchinni,squash etc,cukes.
Rudolf Pawar says
Just to add, We Indians make Okra with mince or meat. Its actually a parsi dish which tastes yummy and is healthy too. Thanks for this great scientific article healthlogist. The nutrient information is really helpful.
Lal Ramesar says
In the Caribbean okra is used in a variety of dishes.People of East Indian descent fry the okra,which is cut in small pieces,in vegetable oil and is a popular dish at food establishment and vegetarian food shops.Okra is a main ingredient in the making of calaloo,a type of spinach soup,that goes as a dish by itself or as a complement to Caribbean dishes.Okra is also cooked in rice pelau and other dishes.
Eileen Atkinson says
Or corn,okra and tomato over rice – yum! As for the comment by Roger Grout in 2015 – cooking is not as good as raw but many dishes use the liquid in the dish so nothing much of any nutrient is lost except what is sensitive to being heated. I cook and freeze what I don’t eat fresh and add it to soups and stews as it does a nice job of making a “gravy” like consistency without using flour.