You know it's been a warm summer when copious amounts of fresh
okra are on display at High Country markets.
This veggie originated in West Africa and is grown in warm temperate regions around the world.
Okra has a short shelf life, so the quality of shipped is rarely as good as local. It's best to pick or choose pods that are 3 inches or smaller for tenderness.
If your garden is producing more than you can handle, the best way to preserve is by freezing. Blanch it for three to four minutes in boiling water. Plunge in ice water and drain. You may slice the pods or leave them whole, then place in freezer bags and label.
Nutritionally, okra is a great source of the trace mineral, manganese, with a half-cup serving providing 47 percent of what you need each day. Manganese helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood-clotting factors and sex hormones. It also plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, blood sugar regulation and is necessary for normal brain and nerve function. Some experts estimate that as many as 37 percent of Americans do not get the recommended dietary intake of manganese in their diet.
Some people don't like okra because it can be "slimy." The technical term for the slime is mucilage, a thick, gluey substance produced by most plants and some microorganisms. It aids in water storage and seed germination. While the mucilage is nice for thickening soups, some prefer not to notice it in a vegetable dish. Here are a couple of recipes that take the slime out of okra.
Recipe by Erich Schlenker, gardener
Cut the okra into approximate three-quarter-inch lengths and toss it with olive oil so it's fully coated.
Salt and pepper it liberally.
Put okra on a cookie sheet (covered with foil) and bake it at 375 Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.
Then put the okra under the broiler for a few minutes to brown and crisp it up a little.
Oven Fried Okra
Pre-heat oven to 400F.
Cut the pods into quarter- to half-inch pieces and place in milk.
Pour crushed cornflakes or cornmeal into a paper bag, then toss okra in and shake until well coated.
Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and place the coated okra piece on the sheet.
Add any seasonings you desire, such as salt, pepper or Italian seasoning.
Spray the top of the okra with non-stick spray and place in oven.
Cook until the breading browns on the bottom, 20 minutes or so.
Then turn the broiler on and brown the top of the okra. Not bad with ketchup.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact Margie, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (828) 264-3061.