The previous entry discussed growing okra in the home garden, today’s post takes a look at a few great okra varieties for the home gardener, along with ideas for preparing and cooking these delicious home grown pods.
Unique Okra Varieties for the Home Garden
If you enjoy growing heirloom vegetables, planting okra will provide many opportunities to grow more than just the routine Clemson Spineless types of okra. Other interesting okra varieties include the following:
- Red Burgundy – Four foot tall plants with six to eight inch maroon pods, some of the color even extends into the plant’s leaves and stems.
- Silver Queen Okra – Tall six foot plants produce tender pale whitish-green pods.
- Star of David – This Israeli heirloom grows pods that have a very unique shape and strong flavor from okra plants reaching up to seven feet.
- Alabama Red - A heirloom okra originating from the state of Alabama produces unusual fat red pods.
- Cow Horn – This giant okra variety can grow eight feet tall and supply the cook with large yields of slender pods reaching ten inches in length without becoming woody.
- Louisiana Short – A prolific producer of tasty and extremely plump six-inch pods.
- Hill Country Heirloom Red – This okra variety is a Texas heirloom with attractive reddish-green pods.
- Burmese Okra – An early yielder, this heirloom from Burma will continue producing pods for the kitchen until fall frosts arrive.
- Jade – High yields of early maturing dark green okra pods on four foot tall plants.
- Emerald – Early, unique smooth-round pods, this may be the okra variety that my grandfather grew years ago in his Southern Maryland garden.
Preparing and Cooking Home Grown Okra
Okra is shunned by some because of the slimy nature of the cut pods after they are cooked. While this mucilaginous character has been linked to some of the health promoting properties of this nutritious vegetable, if that’s prevented you from enjoying okra you’ll be happy to discover that there are ways to prepare it that reduce or eliminate that slimy consistency.
Cooking the smaller pods whole, eliminates the need for any cutting and will automatically reduce the gelatinous effect in any recipe. Adding small quantities of cut okra pods to soups or stews containing other vegetables and liquids will also reduce the unpleasant stickiness, as will the acid from vinegar that is added to a dish during preparation.
For the youngest and smallest tender pods you can skip the cooking altogether. The raw pods can be enjoyed as finger food, or can be cut into pieces and tossed into a fresh vegetable salad.
Gumbo, a Classic Recipe Featuring Okra
Okra is one of the essential ingredients that set gumbo apart from an ordinary pot of soup and is a must have for cooking any authentic gumbo recipe. Another favorite southern okra recipe is to slice the pods crosswise into sections which are then breaded and deep fried.
For a much healthier alternative steam or boil the pods, or prepare stews, soups, and casseroles including okra with a variety of other fresh vegetables. Okra is especially good when cooked along with tomatoes or tomato sauces, which will also serve to eliminate any slimy aftereffects.
If you had given up on okra maybe it’s time to give it another try. Regardless of how you choose to prepare them, growing a selection of okra varieties in the home garden will supply you with plenty of fresh pods throughout the gardening season to include in some of your favorite recipes.
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