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Five Favorite Uses for Okra

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Phoebe's favorite okra is crispy and pairs well with a summer veggie burger.

Okra is easy to grow and adds ornamental interest to the garden.

Okra is easy to grow and adds ornamental interest to the garden.

Okra is a staple of the late summer garden, especially in the South. It thrives in hot, humid and dry conditions with little care. Okra is in the hibiscus family, which gives it the added benefit of unique flowers to add beauty to the garden. The foliage is also interesting. One local public garden, the Dixon Gallery and Garden, even grows okra in their cutting garden for us in flower arrangements. Okra is a prolific producer, so you will want a variety of ideas for ways to prepare this late summer staple.

Oven Roasted Okra

If you’re looking for a healthy, fiber-rich alternative to French fries with that summer veggie burger, try roasting okra instead. This is my favorite way to prepare okra and it is by far the simplest and cleanest.

Recipe Instructions: Wash the okra, cut off the tops and slice them in half long-ways. Then lightly coat with olive oil and your choice of seasoning. I recommend starting with garlic powder and paprika. You can try any combination that you like and feel free to get creative! Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then flip them over and roast on the other side for another 15 minutes. If you like them a bit mushy, decrease the time to 10 minutes per side. I like mine nice and crispy, so 15 minutes is perfect for my taste.

Okra prepared this way will not reheat well, so make only what you think you’ll eat immediately. Don’t worry – your okra plants will have you restocked in a day or two.


Fried Okra

This is a classic way to prepare okra, although it’s far messier and less healthy than the roasting options above.

Recipe Instructions - You’ll need okra, corn meal, salt, pepper, at least one egg – maybe more depending on your okra quantity – and vegetable oil. Heat the vegetable oil on medium heat in a deep skillet while you prepare the okra. Wash the okra and cut off the tops. Then slice the okra into medallions – think 5-7 medallions per piece of okra for a typical okra size. Beat the egg. In a separate bowl, mix together cornmeal and add salt and pepper to your taste. Pour your sliced okra in to the beaten egg mixture until coated. Then remove the okra from the egg batter, allowing excess egg to fall off of the okra. Then dip the okra into the cornmeal mixture until coated. Finally, put your cornmeal-coated okra into the heated oil and cook until your desired level of crispness is achieved. You will have to monitor the cooking process to turn okra and ensure even cooking. Beware of the oil jumping and scalding you if it gets too hot too quickly!

Pick okra when it's about the size of a finger. Okra grows quickly and is generally more tender when picked young. These okra are a bit over-sized.

Pick okra when it's about the size of a finger. Okra grows quickly and is generally more tender when picked young. These okra are a bit over-sized.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Okra’s sliminess makes it a great soup thickener. Whatever your favorite recipe is for vegetable soup, add in okra medallions for an extra dose of fiber and flavor. I like

Veggie Roast

If the idea of crispy okra seems bit too simple for you, try a variation with other late summer vegetables like cherry or grape tomatoes and sliced white onion.

Instructions: Wash the okra, cut off the tops and slice them in half long-ways. Leave cherry or grape tomatoes whole, but ensure they are washed. Slice the onion into long strips and break apart gently with your hands so the pieces separate from each other. Then lightly coat with olive oil and your choice of seasoning. Again, I recommend starting with garlic powder and paprika, but sage and salt are a second favorite option. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then flip them over and roast on the other side for another 10 minutes.

This will give you a winning combination of flavors. Unlike the first roasted option, this one is mushier by design and can be stored or reheated without compromising quality.

Grilled Okra

If you’re cooking out, add a little okra to your grilling portfolio. This is a variation on the roasted theme, so you can also add in other veggies for some variety, if desired.

Instructions: Wash the okra, cut off the tops and slice them in half long-ways. Then lightly coat with olive oil and your choice of seasoning. I recommend starting with garlic powder and paprika. You can try any combination that you like and feel free to get creative! Then place into an aluminum foil or other grill-save rack and grill until desired level of crispness.

However you choose to eat your okra, be prepared to experiment with cooking times and seasonings. Everyone seems to have a preference of crisp or mushy, salty or spicy. If you’ve tried okra before and didn’t enjoy the texture, give this fiber-filled, easy to grow vegetable another try and make it your way. Have fun and make it your own!

© 2019 Phoebe Lee