Maybe it's time to give okra a chance ...

features@beaufortgazette.comJuly 9, 2013 

There is one vegetable that seems to be more divisive than the rest -- you either love it, or really, really hate it. Me? I happen to love okra, and I think, if you gave it a chance, this delicious mucilaginous vegetable could really grow on you.

Okra is an ancient vegetable. According to one legend, it was brought to the United States by Africans who stored the seed in their ears. Another story has the French bringing the seeds with them to Louisiana in the 1700s.

Many folks don't enjoy the slick and sliding texture of okra. But okra is a versatile vegetable and can be prepared in so many ways. Fresh young okra pods are the best, but frozen is also very good. Okra can be canned and used when neither fresh nor frozen okra is available.

This is okra season, which means you can find the vegetable at roadside stands, You-Pick farms and at Lowcountry farmers markets.

Here are some recipes to try:

OKRA CASSEROLE

Makes: 6 servings

1/4 cup rice

1 quart sliced okra

1 quart cooked tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

1 1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon butter

Place first six ingredients in a buttered baking dish. Dot with butter. Bake, covered at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove cover; bake until top is browned.

Source: S.Y. Brown in Bluffton's "First Zion Missionary Baptist Church Cookbook"

OKRA AND TOMATOES

4 slices bacon

1 onion, chopped

1 pound okra (fresh or frozen), sliced

3 cups tomatoes, sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and crumble. Saute onion in bacon drippings until clear. Put sliced okra in an iron skillet. Add a little water to prevent okra from browning. Cook okra until all the slime is gone. Continue to add water as needed. Add sliced tomatoes to okra and continue to stir until there is a good mixture. When the mixture is hot, add onion, crumbled bacon, sugar and seasonings. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

Source: Gwen Fields in Bluffton's "First Zion Missionary Baptist Church Cookbook"

FRIED OKRA

Cut okra into cubes. Salt and pepper it and dust with cornmeal. Drop cut okra into iron skillet with bacon grease. Cook until lightly brown.

Source: Ervena Faulkner's personal file

Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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