Okra originated in Africa—the name derives from the Twi language spoken on the Gold Coast—but is a staple in cuisines across the globe, from the Middle East to the Southeastern U.S., where its seeds were carried on slave ships over three centuries ago. The vegetable is prized for the gelatinous substance released from its pods when cooked, which serves as a thickener for soups and stews such as gumbo. Okra is also commonly braised, baked, and—especially in the Southern United States—breaded and fried, giving it a crispy outer texture and a meltingly soft interior.
HOW TO BUY
Choose firm, springy pods no longer than 3 to 5 inches long (larger pods can have a woody texture), with a rich green color and a fine coat of sticky white hairs.
HOW TO STORE
Uncooked okra should be kept in the fridge and used within a few days.
HOW TO PREPARE
Before cooking, wash the pods and cut off the stem ends.