Okra | Ladyfingers | Gumbo
Would you believe that okra comes from a family that includes the hibiscus, China rose and hollyhock? It’s wonderfully elegant slender tapering ridged appearance earned Okra the name of Ladyfingers in parts of the world. They are also called Gumbo in other parts of the world. These green-ribbed seed pods are a good supply of Vitamin A and C, calcium and iron and are the basis of many a good Indian curry. There are varieties of okra that are red and orange.
Okra is the native of Ethiopia, taken to North America and the Caribbean through the slave trade in the 17th century. It spread to India and the Middle East in the early days of its international travel and is well-loved in India’s regional dishes – stuffed with spices and fried, pan-fried with spices, fried and mixed with yoghurt, or cooked in a curry with other vegetables. Okra didn’t reach South East Asia until the 19th century, but now Malaysian cuisine abounds with dishes that feature okra.
Okra is a much maligned vegetable, which, badly cooked, falls into the same category as Brussels Sprouts. But cooked well, it is undeniably wonderful. It is the mucilaginous substance inside okra that gives the favourite okra dish of North America, Gumbo, its characteristic silky, gelatinous texture. It is an essential ingredient of Jambalaya, and a favourite of the Greek kitchen where it is served with fresh tomato and onion. In curries, it is often used whole, trimmed only of stalk, but keeping the conical top which is discarded at time of eating. The soft, slightly moist texture of the interior is part of its appeal.
Slicing okra and stir-frying it before cooking removes its stickiness and makes it much more palatable to those who do not like this characteristic.
Okra can also be cooked by stir-frying with a chilli paste or as a sambal okra.
- Find all of our Okra recipes here.
You might like to also pickle some okra.