A Southern favorite for more than a century, these unusual green pods originated in Africa. Known for its gelatinous juices, the okra plant is revered as a thickening agent, and for that reason the pods are a key ingredient in Creole gumbos. Okra is also delicious sliced and sauteed with other vegetables (corn and tomatoes alongside okra make a tasty side dish), added to rice, pickled and jarred, or deep-fried until golden brown and served as a crunchy accompaniment to any meal.
To reduce sliminess, cook okra quickly over high heat, or stew it to maximize the thickening power of its juices.
Look for okra that's bright green, firm, and covered with a fine layer of white fuzz.
Wash in cold water before use.
Where to Buy
Okra is available year-round at gourmet food stores, though prices spike in the winter and early spring. Look for okra at your local farmers' market during the summer months, or visit www.melissas.com.