Ohh-kra-homa

Fresh Okra greens

You may have noticed market tables piled high with unfamiliar greens that are being snapped up by Africans. Okra leaves! Well that makes sense, doesn’t it? given the abundance of locally grown okra. The greens are very mild, similar to beet greens. Try one raw and you’ll see how mild. I sauteed them like beet greens, with garlic, of course.
Okra is of the mallow plant family and comes from West Africa.  Wikipedia has a great summary of culinary uses of Okra seed pod and greens.
Okra veg (seed pod) itself is tricky, as it exudes a glutinous substance after cooking it a short while. Wikipedia calls it “mucilaginous”. In other words, slimy.
Most traditional African and Southern American recipes calls for cooking it a long time in stews, such as New Orleans gumbo, in which the slimy goo dissolves. In fact, a common name for okra is ‘gumbo’, as is “Ladyfingers”. 
I don’t like the slimy texture, so I flash stir-fry okra with a lot of pungent spices like cumin seed, mustard seed, cayenne and garlic, similar to the Indian treatment.

Fresh Okra from Mpls Farmers Market

Stir-fry spices in canola oil at high heat til they pop. Add garlic and whole or large chunks of okra and stir-fry for 3 min approx. Add lemon juice, cayenne & salt and stir-fry just until you see some sticky fluid emerge. The okra will be crunchy. It’s delicious this way. You can use garam masala spice blend and ground ginger, too.

I introduced some private clients to okra in this manner and they really liked it. I also added  stir-fried okra to the vegan Jambalaya dish of the week in August. It’s another good
Okra is called Bhindi  in northern India. When you’re at local Indian restaurants, try the Bhindi Masala, which includes tomatoes. Many Indian recipes seem to call for longer cooking times (20 min) than I do. The tomatoes, like the lemon juice, cuts the sliminess.
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