The beginning of September signals that fall is on its way, along with leaves, and… okra? The exotic medicinal and culinary vegetable (available year-round), is best to get in early fall when crops in Southern states reach their peak. Typically, okra is used as a thickening agent in soups like gumbo because of its ooey-gooey texture, but it can double as a nutritional powerhouse filled with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that provide an array of health benefits from treating diabetes to preventing kidney disease.
A single cup of raw okra has a little over 30 calories, about 3 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of protein, 7.6 grams carbohydrates, 0.1 grams of fat, 21 milligrams of vitamin C, around 88 micrograms of folate, and 57 milligrams of magnesium. This makes okra a nutrition hero and a very available food when it comes to our health.
Whether you consume okra stewed, boiled, fried, or even in pickled form, you can reap the health benefits of this little green vegetable any time of the year. Here’s how:
- Alleviates Asthma
- Lowers Cholesterol
- Manages Diabetes
- Boosts Immune System
- Prevents Kidney Disease
- Promotes Healthy Pregnancy
- Never would have thought to eat this Raw…Okra
- Okra, slime is gold!
- Real Food Encyclopedia | Okra
- Eating Okra
- Nutritional Information for Okra Leaves
- 1. Selection and Storage
- 2. Prepping
- 3. Three Tricks Before Cooking
- 4. Cooking Methods
- 5. Other Ingredients and Recipes
- Recommendation: Download the Food Monster App
- Okra Seed Granola
- What Is Okra?
- Side Effects & Precautions
- Using Okra
Consuming even small amounts of fruits or vegetables rich in vitamin C, like okra (21 milligrams per cup), can alleviate asthma symptoms. A 2000 study published in the journal Thorax found the intake of citrus or kiwi fruits conferred a highly protective effect against wheezing symptoms in childhood. The protective effect was seen even among children who ate fruit only one to two times per week. The researchers found this to be especially true among already susceptible patients.
Okra not only promotes good digestive health, but also good cholesterol levels due to its high fiber content. Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water, which means that it breaks down in the digestive tract. There, it also binds to cholesterol in other foods so that it can be excreted along with other wastes. In turn, total cholesterol levels plummet, according to the Harvard Health Publications. Okra also helps to lower cholesterol by replacing all the foods you eat with high fat and cholesterol levels — okra contains no cholesterol and very little fat.
Soluble fiber can help diabetics because of its ability to keep blood glucose levels stable — it affects how sugar is absorbed in the intestines. In a 2011 study published in the journal ISRN Pharmaceutics, researchers soaked sliced okra pods in water and then gave rats the solution through a gastric feeding tube — a control group wasn’t fed this solution. The researchers found okra helped reduce the absorption rate of glucose and in turn reduced blood sugar levels in the treated rats.
Boosts Immune System
Okra’s rich vitamin C content and antioxidant components also double as decent immune boosters against unsafe free radicals, while also supporting the immune system. Vitamin C stimulates the immune system to create more white blood cells, which can help battle other foreign pathogens and materials in the body.
Prevents Kidney Disease
Regularly eating okra can be helpful for preventing kidney disease. A 2005 study published in the Jilin Medical Journal found patients who ate okra daily reduced clinical signs of kidney damage more than those who were on a diabetic diet. This is helpful since nearly half of kidney disease cases develop from diabetes.
Promotes Healthy Pregnancy
Okra’s high levels of vitamin A, B vitamins (B1, B2, B6), and vitamin C, and traces of zinc and calcium, make it an ideal vegetable to eat during pregnancy. Okra also serves as a supplement for fiber and folic acid. This helps prevent birth defects like spina bifida and can even stop constipation during pregnancy.
Though not many of us want to talk about it, the colon is a vital organ. When the colon is damaged and does not function to its fullest potential, serious health problems can occur. If you’re not thrilled with the idea of a colonic or some other type of colon cleanse, then consider this natural alternative for boosting colon health: Lady Finger. More commonly known as okra, Chinese okra, bindi or bamia, it’s not only delicious but it’s also easy to prepare. Okra provides numerous health benefits to your body, and especially to your colon.
Lady Finger is a great source of important vitamins and minerals that naturally improve colon health. Some of the powerhouse nutrients found in Chinese okra include vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B, iron, calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, selenium, manganese and zinc.
Let’s discuss what Lady Finger specifically does to improve colon health. Chinese okra releases a dietary fiber that’s able to clean out the gastrointestinal system, which can easily become clogged with fats, carbohydrates, cholesterol, toxins, bacteria and other harmful substances. By cleaning out the intestinal tract, okra can improve colon health by simply allowing it to work more efficiently.
Additional benefits of okra? It’s fat free, low in calories and high in fiber. But okra can do so much more than improve colon health. The health benefits of okra include reducing the risk of obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and colon cancer.
Interesting tidbit: The edible part of the flowering plant (or okra) is long and tapered, resembling a woman’s fingers, thus giving it its name. Lady Finger was originally only found in Africa, but is now grown all over the world.
To learn more about natural remedies to various diseases and conditions, please consult a Pharmaca practitioner today.
Okra seems to be one of those foods that people either love or hate. At the mention of okra, eyes light up of those in the love camp.
I love fried and pickled okra. The haters stick their tongues out, make a guttural sound of disgust and protest about the slime.
I doubt I’m going to win over any okra-haters. I can’t fault folks for having an aversion to slime in their food. It’s the okra-lovers I’m concerned about. I don’t think I’ve ever had something that wasn’t completely delicious when it was fried or pickled. Okra deserves more.
The entire okra plant is edible. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like any other greens. Okra pods can even be eaten raw. The less cooked okra is, the better it is for you. It’s high in fiber, folate, antioxidants, and vitamins A and C. Slice off the stem, cut the pods into 1-inch pieces and give them a quick saute to reduce the green taste. High heat and longer cooking time will cut down on the slime factor but also on the health benefits.
The slime okra is known for is called mucilage, and it’s actually good for you. Okra’s high fiber and mucilage content are ideal for helping with digestion.
Cooking okra slowly on low heat will bring out maximum mucilage. Gumbo without the goo would hardly be gumbo. Supposedly, the slime is great for adding shine and bounce to hair. Slice a bunch of okra lengthwise and boil until maximum slime is achieved. Add a few drops of lemon juice and use it as a final hair rinse. I would never put my delicious okra to such a use, but I’d love to hear from someone who has.
Okra loves hot weather and thrives in tropical climates. Our own little subtropical snap at the end of August helped bring okra aplenty to the farmers market. Choose smaller pods; larger okra can get wiry, fibrous and tough. Once you get your okra home, store them in the fridge and eat within three days to get the most vitamin and antioxidant benefits. Don’t wash okra before storing; it will get slimy. Wash them when you’re ready to prepare them.
Enjoy the season’s slimiest with these recipes. No pickling or frying allowed.
Grilled okra and tomato skewers
2 small onions, each cut into 8 wedges
24 okra pods, trimmed
16 cherry tomatoes
4 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon water
1⁄2 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Prepare grill. Divide each onion wedge into 2 equal pieces. Thread 3 okra pods, 2 cherry tomatoes, and 2 onion pieces alternately onto each of 8 (12-inch) skewers. Combine olive oil, kosher salt and the remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Brush olive oil mixture over the skewers. Place the skewers on a grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill skewers for 3 minutes on each side or until tender.
Adapted from myrecipes.com
Oven-baked crunchy okra
31⁄2 cups okra, sliced into 1 inch pieces (fresh or frozen, if frozen do not thaw)
1 teaspoon Cajun or creole seasoning
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup corn meal
1 gallon plastic zip-close bag
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Turn the zip-lock bag inside out and spray with cooking spray. Pour the okra in the bag along with the seasoning and garlic salt. Seal bag and shake vigorously. Let rest for 10 minutes so the juices extract from the okra. Add the cornmeal to the bag and shake up again. Let rest 10 more minutes. Give the bag one more shake. Pour okra over a strainer or colander so the extra cornmeal will fall off. Spread the okra over a foil covered baking sheet and spread out evenly. Spray okra with canola oil spray. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven, flip okra over, lightly spray again and return to oven for 15 more minutes.
Adapted from cookincowgirl.com
Creole chicken and okra
2 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1⁄2 cup diced onion
1⁄2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 ounces grape tomatoes, halved (1 cup)
1⁄2 cup fresh chopped or frozen cut okra (thawed, if frozen)
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
2 cups cooked brown rice
Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium high. Coat skillet with cooking spray, add chicken and cook for 2 minutes or until chicken is almost cooked through, stirring frequently. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside on a separate plate.
Return skillet to medium-high and heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion and pepper and cook for 4 minutes or until beginning to lightly brown, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook for 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Add 1⁄2 cup water, tomatoes, okra, thyme and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until okra is just tender. Remove from heat, stir in hot sauce, salt, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1⁄4 cup parsley. Add chicken, stir to blend, cover and let stand for 5 minutes to absorb flavors and heat chicken thoroughly. Toss rice with remaining 1⁄4 cup parsley and serve chicken mixture over top.
Have questions? Email them to [email protected] or mail her c⁄o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.
Never would have thought to eat this Raw…Okra
Maybe it is time for me to take another look at this veggie. I don’t like okra because I have always eaten it cooked and I don’t like the fact that it is slimy when cooked. Eating it Raw would be crunchy, not slimy. Hmmmmmmmm!
1 cup of raw okra are 35% Vitamin C, 66% Vitamin K, 13% Thiamin, 11% Vitamin B6, 22% Folate, 14% Magnesium, 50% Manganese. Pretty healthy, huh?
Here’s a list of the various health benefits that okra has to offer:
The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilize the blood sugar by curbing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.
Okra’s mucilage binds cholesterol and bile acid carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver.
Okra helps lubricate the large intestines due to its bulk laxative qualities. The okra fiber absorbs water and ensures bulk in stools. In other words…
Okra helps prevent and improve constipation: Okra’s mucilage soothes and facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic.
Okra fiber is excellent for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics).
Okra is a supreme vegetable for those feeling weak, exhausted, and suffering from depression.
Okra is used for healing ulcers and to keep joints limber. It helps to neutralize acids, being very alkaline, and provides a temporary protective coating for the digestive tract.
Okra treats lung inflammation, sore throat, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Okra has been used successfully in experimental blood plasma replacements.
Okra is good for summer heat treatment.
Okra binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids).
Okra is good in normalizing the blood sugar and cholesterol level.
Okra is good for asthma, as its vitamin C is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which curtails the development of asthma symptoms.
Okra is good for atherosclerosis.
Okra is believed to protect some forms of cancer expansion, especially colorectal cancer.
Eating okra helps to support the structure of capillaries.
Some information shows that eating okra lowers the risk of cataracts.
Okra is good for preventing diabetes.
Okra protects you from pimples and maintains smooth and beautiful skin. We understand the reason why Cleopatra and Yang Guifei loved to eat okra.
Yummy Okra Salad (from goneraw.com)
15 okra, washed and sliced
1 slice onion, finely sliced
1 Roma tomato, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ yellow pepper, chopped
dash Braggs Liquid Aminos
or low sodium soy sauce,
3 tablespoon olive oil
Prepare and combine ingredients in a bowl.
Toss lightly with a fork and enjoy!
Simple Marinated Okra
Tamari, to taste
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Slice okra in thin circles, toss with tamari and finely minced garlic.
Marinate a couple of hours.
Raw Pickled Okra
1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp sea salt
1 big clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp dried dill
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound small okra, remove stems, leave caps on
Mix thoroughly and allow to marinate at least 15 minutes. However the longer you let it marinate the better.
Summer Salad with Okra
1 cup fresh, uncooked okra, sliced in half vertically
1 package (5- to 6-ounce) package mixed salad greens
1 small sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 fresh jicama, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
Toss together okra slices, salad greens, red pepper, jicama, salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately with dressing of your choice.
Easy Okra and Tomato Salad
16 oz. fresh whole okra, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes (cut in half if large)
2-3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp grated or minced garlic
juice of half fresh lemon
dash of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Toss all together in a bowl. Voila!
If you are lucky enough to be able to grow your own, know someone who does, or find it fresh in your local Farmer’s Market then try it just fresh out of the garden sliced thin and season with just salt and pepper. Young okra, when not over 4 inches, is not stringy and deliciously crunchy. Try some.
Okra, slime is gold!
Also referred to as lady’s finger and gumbo, Okra is one of the best medicinal vegetable, that hasn’t got its due sometimes due to its taste. To others, it is all down to the slimey stew since making stew out of okra means a slippery sauce.
This pod-producing, tropical vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse used throughout history for both medicinal and culinary purposes. Once loved by the Egyptians and still used in many dishes today, the vegetable dates back over 3500 years ago. But still today, many are enjoying both okra health benefits and the vegetable’s edible delight.
Like the kiwi fruit (okra actually shares many kiwi fruit benefits), okra is known for it’s high vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate content,(although not quite as high as kiwi). Further, okra is known for harnessing a superior fiber, which helps with digestion, stabilises blood sugar, and helps to control the rate at which sugar is absorbed.
While the “amount of nutrition” from okra varies based on how it’s consumed (pods, grams, etc), some of the key substances in the vegetable remain the same.
Okra contains several healthy components including vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants like B1 and B2, quercetin, rutin, catechin, and epiatechin. It’s also known for high vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate content. Studies have indicated the vitamin C content of okra could help with asthma and even skin conditions.
But many of the health benefits of okra come from it’s superior fiber content. As a fibre source, it helps to regulate digestion and maintain blood sugar levels. The inclusion of pectin also makes it a great choice for helping to reduce cholesterol. Check out this article for a real close look into the health benefits of okra.
Okra is easy to grow during summer months and can do well in most continental climates. You can simply start it from seed. As it grows, it produces pretty flowers from which the fruit develops. As your okra is producing, you will want to harvest it often. One common mistake is letting the pods get too large, at which point they get dry and tough. So, harvest them small and young.
While you can fry okra, that’s probably not the healthiest option. In soups and gumbo it’s somewhat slimy texture gives the broth a great feel and flavor. But, you can also eat okra raw. Without being cooked, the slime is kept at a minimum. Add it to a salad or simply eat it plain.
The known health benefits of okra
Promotes a healthy pregnancy. An extremely important B vitamin for producing and maintaining new cells, folate is an essential compound for optimal pregnancy. The vitamin helps prevent birth defects like spina bifida and helps the baby to grow sufficiently. Vitamin C is essential for fetal development.
Thanks to fibre and other nutrients, okra is beneficial in normalising blood sugar in the body.
Supports colon health.
Okra is full of dietary fibre, which is essential for colon health and digestive health as a whole.
The fibre in okra provides helps to clean out the gastrointestinal system, allowing the colon to work at greater levels of efficiency. Also, the vitamin A contributes to healthy mucous membranes, helping the digestive tract to operate normally.
Respiratory issues like asthma. The vitamin C in okra helps with respiratory issues like asthma.
One study concluded that “the consumption of fruit rich in vitamin C, even at a low level of intake, may reduce wheezing symptoms in childhood, especially among already susceptible individuals.”
Promotes healthy skin. Vitamin C helps keep the skin looking young and vibrant. The vitamin aids in the growth and repair of bodily tissues, which affects collagen formation and skin pigmentation, and helps to rejuvenate damaged skin.
Topical tip: Boil a handful of okra until soft. After letting it cool, mash it, and apply it to your face. After five minutes, your skin should feel smooth and rejuvenated.
Real Food Encyclopedia | Okra
Okra and Geography
Okra is a very minor commercial crop in the US, with production concentrated primarily in the South — especially in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama. Okra is also grown commercially in California. India leads by a mile in global okra cultivation, followed by Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq and Cote d’Ivoire.
Storing Fresh Okra
If you’re planning on cooking your okra right away, store the pods on the counter, otherwise store them unwashed in a paper bag in the fridge for two or three days.
Pro tip: If you’ve got a hankering for stewed okra but can’t stomach the slime, here’s a method for reducing the slime: salt whole okra pods first, then toss in acidulated water, drain and cook. Here are some other tips for minimizing the goo.
If you dig “nose-to-tail” veggie eating, okra is for you: the leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible. Young okra greens can be cooked like spinach or beet greens (or eaten raw) and the seeds can be ground and used as a coffee substitute (here’s a recipe for okra coffee) or even pressed for oil.
Are you a hard-core okra lover, embracing the slimy nature of the pods, or do you want to mitigate the goo? If the former, do what the Creoles do and toss chopped okra into gumbo, a stew usually made of shellfish and sometimes sausage or other meats, or stew or braise the pods. If you’d rather get rid of the slime, frying, roasting, grilling, or quick sautéing the veggie is your best bet. The classic Southern method of fries sliced okra in a simple cornmeal coating; you can also batter whole pods and fry them up. (Or make these fried okra tacos! Or these jalapeño popper-inspired cheese-stuffed fried okra!) Okra fritters are another way to keep the slime factor down — here is a fantastic video of Scott Peacock making okra fritters with Martha Stewart. Oven roasting is another great option — check out these roasted okra chips or these simple oven roasted whole okra pods with thyme.
You can also look to Brazil, India and the Middle East for okra recipes outside of the Southern cornmeal-fried okra comfort zone — these cuisines have strong traditions of cooking with the pods. Check out this recipe for Brazilian sautéed okra with cashews; there is also a type of Brazilian gumbo (Caruru de Camarão) typically made with shrimp and okra. Indian cuisine and okra are made for one another — try making bhindi masala or author Madhur Jaffrey’s whole okra pods stuffed with spices. Okra stew is common in many Middle Eastern countries — recipes vary by region, but the pods are usually stewed with spices and sometimes with the addition of beef, lamb or chicken. Or take it back to okra’s African origins with this delicious-sounding West African okra stew with chicken and peanut butter.
Okra takes well to preservation — try pickled okra in your next summer Bloody Mary. Okra can also be dried and made into chips. Have an abundance of okra? Freeze it for year-round okra enjoyment! Here’s how you do it.
Okra’s got a lot going for it in the nutritional department. It is high in Vitamins K and C, and is a decent source of folate, Vitamin B6, manganese and even calcium. The green pods are also high in fiber. In alternative medicine, okra is said to relieve constipation and help with digestive ills.
The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration
Chris Smith, Chelsea Green, June 2019
ISBN 978-1-60358-807-2, 272 pages, $29.95
This brand new book is a lot of fun, and the photos are stunning. It has more about okra than you knew you “Wanted to Know”. Oil from the seeds, eating the leaves, okra-stem drinking straws, okra seed tempeh, okra marshmallow delights, okra history and geography, medical and industrial uses and so much more. It contains growing tips and recipes, but is not limited to the practical realm.
Chris Smith lives in North Carolina and works with Sow True Seeds in Asheville. He is also a writer, speaker and consultant. He is an immigrant farmer, like me, coming from a climate where okra does not grow. “As a white British guy, I am fully aware that okra is not part of my culture or heritage. I have, however, fallen in love with okra and have tried to approach this book with integrity, and a deep appreciation of people and food.” Fortunately for us all, he persisted beyond his encounter with soggy, slimy, greasy fried okra to discover much better ways to use this versatile vegetable.
Burmese okra flower.
Photo by Raddysh Acorn
Chris has grown 76 varieties of okra, cooked it in many different recipes, and experimented on himself and his family with “beauty” preparations and alcoholic tinctures and beverages. He is growing another 76 different varieties in 2019. The USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) holds 1099 separate accessions from all over the world. India grows the most okra, by far (over 6 million tons in 2014). Nigeria is second with 2 million tons. The US is 21st in line (producing 10,000 tons in 2014). The US also imports 50,000 tons mostly from Mexico and Central America.
In his introduction, Chris says: “Not embracing okra because it’s slimy is like not visiting the Alps because you’re scared of heights.” Okra is often dismissed these days as a vegetable people don’t like, although it used to be a favorite of many. In the 1900s, the Tabasco brand of canned okra sold well.
We need resilient crops in the face of climate change; we need to grow more of our own food, eat locally, organic, and with less or no meat, to survive the uncertainties ahead. Zero food waste has become a goal of some chefs (and no doubt, some home cooks too). The Whole Okra provides help with several steps on this journey.
Early in the book, Chris embraces the S-word (slime), including some great photos of his smiling family with okra slime face masks and okra-slice eye pads, and himself with okra mucilage hair conditioner. Although Chris is only recommending things he’s tried himself, he does mention some untested ideas, like substituting okra juice for mallow juice as a tonic. A (tested) recipe for okra marshmallow delights is included. Adding acidic ingredients (think tomatoes, lemon juice) to a recipe will effectively cut through the sliminess.
Pickled garlic scapes, okra and beets.
Photo Bridget Aleshire
If you have grown okra, you will probably be familiar with the sudden glut that arrives at some (hot) point in the summer. Here are instructions for freezing okra, pickling (both by fermenting and with vinegar), drying (best when strung on dental floss). Best of all are the okra chips (season 2 pounds (907 g) of pods with oil, salt, spices, roast at 500F (260C) for 20 mins, then 170F (75C) for 2-3 hours). 4 ounces (113 g) of tasty crunchy chips! Who knew? There’s also info on pressure canning, and okra kimchi, which can be dried, powdered and used as a seasoning.
Close up of Cow Horn okra pods.
Photo Kathryn Simmons
Okra can be self-pollinating, but produces more seeds per pod when pollinated by insects. There is a specialized native okra bee, Ptilothrix bombiformis. Okra is not native to North America, but rose-mallow and hibiscus are. The flowers are edible cooked, but of course you won’t get an okra pod if you’ve eaten the flower. Unlike squash, okra does not have separate female and male flowers. Flowers can be dried, used in tea blends, or in vodka for tinctures and nightcaps. Only eat flowers if you have an over-abundance of pods or you are about to go away for a long weekend and don’t want to come home to a mass of woody pods. Believe it or not, Chris has uses for woody pods too! These can often be obtained free or cheap in high summer. Don some gloves. Open the pods and shell out the immature seeds, which can be cooked and eaten then, or blanched and frozen for winter. Thoroughly dry the empty pods, then powder them, and sift through a fine mesh. The pod powder can be used as a thickening agent in place of cornstarch.
Young okra plants.
Photo Wren Vile
The young leaves make appetizing summer greens and are higher in protein than the pods. They are used (mixed with yam and other vegetables) by the Igbo people of Nigeria. Choose very young leaves, or fairly young leaves of a variety without spiny leaves. Heavy Hitter is the variety to grow for large supple spineless leaves. A close cousin of okra, abika, is used as an important leafy green in some Pacific Island nations. Seeds can be bought from Monticello, under the name Sunset Hibiscus.
Deep-fried young leaves can make crisp chips, like kale chips, but different. If you are saving okra seed, you will often have more seeds than you need to grow, you can sow those for microgreens. Chris has a small aquaponics system made from a barrel. Goldfish (and tilapia in summer) are in the bottom section of the barrel and the water is pumped to the top section which grows the microgreens.
Mature okra seed has a tough hull and a nutritious kernel which can be ground into flour and used in soups, sauces, gravies, and okra seed tofu and tempeh. Back to woody pods: they can make Christmas tree ornaments, earrings, strings of holiday lights (hint: cool LED bulbs, not fire-prone hot bulbs), and painted ornamental figurines. Crushed pods can be used to grow mushrooms. I’m waiting to find out if Chris suggests using them as mulch, or as firelighters. (My Advance Readers’ Copy doesn’t have an index).
Cow Horn okra pods and flower.
Photo Bridget Aleshire
It was known in 1874 and in 1919 that oil can be extracted from okra seeds, but forgotten since. Chris describes hand-cranking his Piteba oil press, for small yields of delicious yellow-green oil. In a comparison of okra oil with that from sunflowers, safflower, soy and sesame the yield of okra oil per hectare is second only to sunflower. The yield pf protein is the highest, beating soy. Clay Oliver makes artisanal small-batch oils, including okra. In a study by Robert Jarret, the oil content varied by variety from 9.19% to 21.56%.
Okra seed flour has high levels of protein and fat, and an impressive range of amino acids. It can be made into bread and other baked goods, mixed with cornmeal. Okra seed was used as a coffee substitute during the civil war. Chris tries everything, and reports that the roasted seeds, when ground, release an appetizing coffee aroma, and look just like coffee, but the beverage tastes nothing like coffee (and has no caffeine). So much for that!
Okra stalk fiber is next – you can make cordage or crochet a hat. Okra is related to jute, kenaf, roselle, kapok and even cotton. Paper is another option. Okra paper is beautiful, strong, and you can make your own paper or twine, following Chris’s instructions. It never caught on commercially, because supply could not meet demand.
Okra seedlings in a Winstrip tray in the greenhouse.
Photo Kathryn Simmons
Naturally enough, there is a chapter on growing okra. I was amazed to learn that at about 3 weeks of age the 6″ (15 cm) tall plant could have a taproot three times as long! At full maturity, the tap root could be 4½ ft (1.4 m). This suggests okra would be sturdier if direct sown, rather than transplanted, but you work with the climate you’ve got! To avoid stunting the taproot, get the small plants in the ground as soon as you can. But it needs to be warm enough. Bruce Adams at Furman University suggests waiting until the butterflies migrate from the South.
Here’s the info you need to get your seed germinated: Warmth, soaking the seed for 8 hours in water at 88F (31C). Get the book for all the details. There are several false rural myths out there about growing okra. Okra has naturalized in the Red River floodplain in Louisiana, and also near Durham, North Carolina, where it survived some freezing temperatures.
Our mulched Cow Horn okra plants in June.
Photo Pam Dawling
Recommendations on spacing vary a lot: as close as 6″ (15 cm) in rich soil, to 24″ (60 cm) for some of the bigger varieties elsewhere. Wider spacing leads to more branches and more pods per plant, but not necessarily more pods for a given area.
And the important matter of deciding when a pod is mature but not too fibrous receives good attention, and a helpful photo, although Chris does warn that it’s best to develop a feel for the rigidity of tough pods. You can’t tell just by length, even within a variety you know well, as the weather will change the size of a mature pod. Chris recommends snapping the end off a trial pod. A clean snap indicates a good meal ahead. A pod that doesn’t snap or that “splinters” is too woody. Three to nine days after flowering is how long it takes to mature a pod (and 40 days from flowering to mature seed). An experienced grower suggests harvesting 4 days after flowering, regardless of length. In drought it might be 2″ (5 cm) long, in warm rainy weather 6-7″ (15-18 cm) Chris includes a hilarious description comparing reactions of Americans and British family and friends being served tough okra. As a fellow Brit, I laughed aloud. Buy the book, I won’t spoil the suspense!
Store the unwashed pods in a cool damp place after removing the field heat.. I was intrigued at the description of Zero Energy Cool Chambers (ZECC) in India, but wonder which part of India, and if this would work in a humid climate.
The back of the book includes a summary of Chris’s 2018 variety trial and includes descriptions his observations, including pod spininess, branching and productivity.
And to end this review, no, Chris did not mention what great kindling dried okra pods make, nor what great long-lasting, weed-free mulch they provide. (I recognize you need to grow a lot of okra seed to produce enough mulch to write about!) Thanks Chris! An entertaining read, and lots of practical information, and inspiring photos!
Nutritional Information for Okra Leaves
Okra, a flowering plant that is native to Africa but can be grown in any warm environment, produces edible seed pods similar to pea pods. Okra and okra leaves are used in food to enhance flavor, due to their slightly bitter taste, but are also used for their potential health benefits. Okra leaves are a common ingredient in southern-style dishes such as gumbo and various soups, but can also be found in tea and in the form of a powdered extract sold as a nutritional supplement. If you consume okra leaves or okra leaf extract for health, talk to your doctor first to make sure it is right for you.
While the okra seed pods contain high amounts of nutrients, including carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals, the primary constituent of okra leaves is insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber cannot be broken down and digested by your body. Instead, fiber helps promote gastrointestinal and digestive health as well as the normal passage of stool. Fiber also provides a positive environment in your colon and small intestine to allow beneficial bacteria to grow, which helps your body break down and absorb nutrients.
Okra leaves contain trace amounts of vitamins A and K. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, or ODS, vitamin A is essential for bone growth, reproduction, cell division, eye health and immune system function 25. MedlinePlus, a website run by the National Library of Medicine, reports that vitamin K is essential to your body’s ability to form blood clots in response to injury 34. Vitamin K is also necessary for bone strength, especially in older populations.
Okra leaves contain trace amounts of minerals and phytonutrients such as iron and magnesium. Iron is important for the formation of proteins used to make blood cells and hemoglobin, the component of your red blood cells that carries oxygen. Magnesium is important for many enzymatic activities throughout the body and contributes to health of the immune system, the central nervous system and bones.
Although okra leaves don’t contain very high amounts of vitamins and minerals, they can be used to provide extra fiber in your diet and enhance the flavor of foods and beverages. Too much okra can cause gastrointestinal distress and constipation, which is usually attributed to the high fiber content of okra leaves. If you suffer from intestinal disorders like diverticulitis or colon cancer, talk with your doctor about your daily fiber needs.
Okra is a Southern staple also known as “ladies’ fingers” because of their long, finger-like shape. For a veggie with such a pretty nickname, okra has a bad reputation for being slimy. Maybe that’s why so many people avoid cooking and eating it. It isn’t even readily available in many markets so it isn’t as familiar a vegetable and lots of people just don’t know what to do with it or how to cook it.
Okra is definitely under-appreciated but it’s definitely worth giving a try. Okra has a mild taste similar to eggplant. It’s also low in calories and a good source of vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium and fiber. It does have a substance inside it called mucilage which acts as a natural thickener and is helpful when cooking gumbo and other stews. There are many ways, however, to cook okra so that it’s slime-free and delicious. Here are some tips on how to cook this Southern beauty.
1. Selection and Storage
Though you can find it year-round in some parts of the country, okra comes into its peak season from May through September. Choose pods that are small and crisp and avoid pods that have brown spots or blemishes or are shriveled. To store fresh okra, wrap it up and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days. Okra can also be bought frozen, whole or sliced.
How you prep the okra will help determine how slimy it gets. Water enhances the sliminess so don’t wash the okra until you are ready to cook it. Let the okra sit at room temperature for a while before using it. The liquid that makes okra feel slimy comes out when you cut the okra so try to limit how much you cut the vegetable. Okra can be cooked whole; just cut or pull off the stems. If you are going to cook them whole, try to buy smaller pods.
If you do need to cut the okra, cut it into big chunks rather than thin slices. The more surface area, the more places slime has to escape. You can also poke holes in the top of the pod right beneath the stem and let some of the mucilage out. Then chop the okra the way you want it.
3. Three Tricks Before Cooking
If you freeze okra and cut it while it is still frozen, it will less slimy than when you cut it fresh. A second trick for reducing sliminess is to soak the okra in vinegar for half an hour before cooking it. Rinse it and pat dry before cooking. Finally, you can pre-cook okra at very high heat by sautéing, roasting, blanching or grilling. Then add cooked okra to your recipe and there will be hardly any slime at all.
4. Cooking Methods
How you cook the okra is also important. As mentioned, cooking it at high heats helps eliminate a lot of slime. Make sure the okra is completely dry before cooking it. Get great tips on How to Cook Vegetables So They Don’t Wilt and How to Avoid Common Mistakes When Cooking Vegetables. Okra can be grilled on a grill pan or an outdoor grill. Just toss the pods in a bit of oil and your favorite seasonings, and then grill them for about 10 minutes until slightly charred. Fried okra is a popular dish that is crispy and delicious. Coat the okra with seasoned flour or cornmeal. They can be fried whole or in slices.
Sautéing is another good method of cooking. You need to saute it long enough for any slime to cook out, about 10-15 minutes. Don’t overcrowd the pan as that will lead to steaming which will create more slime. Dry roasting okra makes them taste nutty, grassy and slightly sweet. Small pods can be roasted whole while larger ones can be sliced in half lengthwise. Roast them at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. A delicious recipe to try is this Crispy Spiced Cauliflower and Okra. Get even more tips and Try These 10 Methods for Cooking Flavorful Vegetables.
5. Other Ingredients and Recipes
The taste of okra is mild and slightly grassy. A popular way to cook it is with onions and tomatoes. The acidity in tomatoes also helps reduce slime. Adding lemon or lime juice while cooking will also help cut the slime. Okra goes well with bold spices such as cayenne pepper, cumin and chile. See my recipe for Bhindi Masala which has okra cooked with onions, chili peppers and tons of warm, fragrant Indian spices. This Creole Okra Corn Soup has tomatoes, smoked paprika and cayenne for tons of delicious flavor. This BEST Vegan “Chicken” and “Sausage” Gumbo is so good, you’ll think you’ve been transported to the south.
If you have had a bad experience with okra or have just been hesitant to try it, it’s time to give these ladies’ fingers a fair chance. With the right prepping and cooking methods, okra is a delicious and healthy veggie that deserves some love.
Recommendation: Download the Food Monster App
If you enjoy articles and recipes like these and want more, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant food app available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and more find awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions.
The Food Monster app has over 8k recipes and 500 are free. To access the rest, you have to pay a subscription fee but it’s totally worth it because not only do you get instant access to 8k+ recipes, you get 10 NEW recipes every day! You can also make meal plans, add bookmarks, read feature stories, and browse recipes across hundreds of categories like diet, cuisine, meal type, occasion, ingredient, popular, seasonal, and so much more!
Lead image source: Crispy Spiced Cauliflower and Okra
As okra growers, we’ve all been there…
You notice your pods are almost ready to harvest and decide to give it just one more day, but then the summer rains set in! All thoughts of garden play are moved to the back of your mind and by the time you’re finally able to get outside without being drenched, those baby pods have grown some. Your perfect harvest has turned to huge fibrous pods. Sometimes okra grows so quickly that just missing a day or two can be the difference between young and tender versus big and woody.
Okra has always been one of my favorite vegetables, and I’ve thankfully passed that love onto my little ones. As a vegetable it is exceptionally versatile. Generally, recipes containing okra are delicious southern side dishes or entrees such as easy to stretch soups and casseroles, gumbo, and fried okra. I always give a good chuckle when someone tells me it’s too slimy and have to reassure them they simply haven’t had it prepared the right way! I thoroughly enjoy turning okra non-believers into lovers, which is why I’m so excited to share the following recipe. I’m going to show you all how delicious okra can be, even when you think the pods are overgrown and woody.
This discovery is the pure brainchild of my absolute okra obsession. I recently learned that okra is way more than those little green pods. The beautiful pearlescent seeds of an overly mature okra pod stay tender way beyond the edibility of the pod, which makes them so much more useful than I had ever known. Chris Smith is writing a book, In Defense of Okra, and we were having a conversation regarding what could be done with the seeds. People have made couscous, and pickled them, and roasted them, but when Chris mentioned the word ‘granola’, my mommy ears kicked in. As the mother of three amazing children with bottomless pits as stomachs, granola is one of our go-to snacks. It’s also one of the easiest to prepare, and as long as you find a good basic recipe, you can add any combination of so many different healthy additions. I spent a few hours in my aromatically enticing kitchen and the end result is an awesomely savory and sweet loose granola recipe that uses the immature okra seeds from fibrous okra pods.
I recommend eating this okra seed granola atop a pile of Greek yogurt with honey drizzled all over. If you’re not so jazzed about any or all of the add-on ingredients, you can easily amend the recipe to fit your needs. Enjoy!
Okra Seed Granola
Makes 10-12 servings
4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dried okra seeds(I let mine dry out for 3 days)**
1tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut oil(can sub with olive oil or melted butter)
Splash of maple syrup
½ cup dried berry mix(I used cranberries, blueberries, and cherries)
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees
- Combine dry ingredients, not including dried fruit
- Combine wet ingredients
- Mix wet and dry ingredients together
- Spread evenly onto cookie sheet(for this recipe I used 3 cookie sheets total) and bake until golden in color(approx 30-35min)
- Stir in dried berry mix and enjoy!
- Keep stored in an airtight container
Immature Okra Seed Harvesting Tips
Only use seeds from overgrown okra pods, i.e. too woody to eat but not yet brown, seeds should still be tender. Ideally, each seed is going to be about the size of a BB. To open the pods, I simply sliced halfway through the tip of the pod at a 45 degree angle and pulled the skin of the pod down. Emptying the seeds was a simple task, albeit time consuming. If you’d like to be super resourceful with the remaining parts of the okra pod, you can dehydrate the skins to use as a starchy binder, and I’ve heard the thin innards attached to the seeds can be boiled as a pasta substitute!
Common in Southern and Creole cooking, okra is a tasty delicacy found in many dishes. It is often fried, boiled, steamed, or added to soups, making it quite a versatile vegetable. However, not only does it make a tasty addition to meals, okra may help with diabetes, high cholesterol, fatigue, and even liver issues. Read on to find out more information about the health benefits of okra and some of its side effects.
What Is Okra?
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus, Abelmoschus manihot) is a tropical plant from the mallow (Malvaceae) family. This is the same family of plants as marshmallow, cotton, and hibiscus. It is also known as lady’s finger, bhindi, and gumbo .
Traditional uses include treatment of stomach ulcers, indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation. Okra is also used as a remedy for infections, fever, and arthritis. Others use it as a treatment for skin wounds, pimples, and itchiness .
Okra Nutrition Facts
Okra seeds contain many nutrients, including :
- 31% carbohydrate
- 14% protein
- 8% fiber (soluble)
- 2% fat (linolenic, linoleic acid, oleic acid)
Okra’s minerals include the following :
The amount of minerals absorbed from okra is high, due to its low content in antinutrients (such as phytate, oxalate, and tannins) .
Okra is also rich in vitamins, including :
- Vitamin C
Okra contains many other active beneficial compounds, including :
- Flavonol derivatives
- Hydroxycinnamic derivatives
- Quercetin and derivatives
- Pectic rhamnogalacturonan I structure
How It Works
Okra may achieve its health benefits through numerous mechanisms of action, including:
- Increasing the breakdown of glucose and fat (by reducing levels of a receptor called PPARγ) .
- Reducing fasting insulin and blood glucose (by increasing glycogen and glucose entry into muscle tissue) .
- Causing programmed cell death of tumor cells (through the increase of genes called caspase-3, caspase-9, and p21) .
- Increasing tumor cell destruction by reducing inflammatory signals (such as inducible nitric oxide protein, tumor necrosis factor, and NF-κB) .
- Protecting the liver (by causing an increase in superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione) .
- Reducing signs of liver damage (by reducing levels of enzymes called SGPT and total bilirubin) .
- Increasing albumin, a beneficial blood protein made in the liver .
- Reducing the absorption of cholesterol from the gut .
- Increasing blood antioxidants (such as malondialdehyde, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase) .
- Blocking H. pylori from sticking to healthy stomach cells .
- Reducing sun damage (through a pathway called Nrf2-ARE) .
- Decreasing harmful substances in nerves (reactive oxygen species and hydrogen peroxide) .
- Reducing the activation of a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease (called tau phosphorylation) .
- Reducing kidney damage. Okra decreases proteinuria and oxidative markers (beta 2-microglobulin, N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase, lipid peroxide, superoxide anion) in the kidneys .
Possibly Effective for:
In a study of 417 patients with kidney disease, ornamental okra reduced high protein levels in the urine, which is a marker of kidney damage .
In 35 patients with kidney disease related to diabetes, ornamental okra acted as an antioxidant, reduced high protein levels in the urine, and increased kidney function. A systematic review of 7 trials and over 500 people concluded that okra may be used as an add-on therapy in people with kidney damage from diabetes .
Okra and its active compounds also improved kidney damage in diabetic mice and rats by reducing inflammation and oxidative damage .
All in all, promising but limited evidence suggests that okra may help with kidney disease. You may discuss with your doctor if including okra in your diet or taking supplements could be helpful in your case.
Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence):
No clinical evidence supports the benefits of okra for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
In pregnant rats with diabetes, okra reduced fasting blood sugar and insulin. It also reduced HbA1C (a marker of diabetes), and liver carbohydrate stores .
In multiple studies on obese and diabetic mice and rats, okra extract reduced blood sugar (reduced production of PPAR-ɣ) .
Two complex carbohydrates (rhamnogalacturonan and ‘OP’) and a hormone (abscisic acid) from okra have been shown to lower blood sugar levels .
Okra also enhanced sugar use by the muscles in diabetic rats (increased muscle glycogen) .
Okra supplements reduced sugar absorption in the gut of diabetic rats .
In a cell-based study, okra extract prevented the death of the pancreatic cells that produce insulin (beta-cells) .
Okra reduced blood levels of cholesterol in diabetic rats by reducing the absorption of cholesterol from the gut .
In diabetic rats, it reduced harmful cholesterol in the blood (total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and very-low-density lipoprotein compared to controls) and increased beneficial HDL cholesterol .
Okra extract reduced blood fat levels and total cholesterol in obese mice by blocking their production and stimulating their breakdown (inhibition of PPAR and LXR signaling) .
In mice, okra extract improved liver health by :
- Improving liver appearance and activity (improved morphology and increased superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione)
- Normalizing liver enzyme levels (SGPT and total bilirubin)
- Increasing a beneficial blood protein made in the liver (albumin) by up to 30%
- Increasing total blood protein levels
In mice and rats, okra reduced the damage and toxic effects of alcohol on the liver (protected lining by reducing oxidative stress and improved hemoglobin blood levels) .
Okra reduced bacterial binding to human stomach cells in a cell study (blocked H. pylori surface receptors) .
Extract of okra improved antioxidant activity in mice and rats, by :
- Increasing enzymes that break down harmful compounds and protect cells from damage (Superoxide dismutase (SOD), Catalase (CAT), Glutathione peroxidase (GPx), Glutathione (GSH))
- Reducing lipid peroxidation, which can lead to heart disease
- Reducing markers of cell damage (Malondialdehyde -MDA-)
The okra seed, but not the pod, improved markers of endurance in mice (swimming time) .
Okra seeds reduced harmful compounds that decrease energy production (reduced blood lactic acid and blood urea nitrogen), while increasing energy storage, liver and blood vessel protection (increased glycogen and malondialdehyde, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase) .
Okra reduced jaw pain and inflammation markers in the blood in rats (reduced TNF-α and IL-1β in the trigeminal ganglion) .
A similar study in rats found that it reduced nerve-related inflammation and pain (temporomandibular joint) .
In mice, both okra extract and its flavonoids quercetin and rutin prevented the brain damage caused by a drug (dexamethasone) and the resulting cognitive impairment .
Some genes increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (hemochromatosis gene). In a cell-based study, okra increased beneficial antioxidants in cells with this gene (decreased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and tau phosphorylation), which may protect against disease .
In a human cellular study, okra reduced sun damage (reduced UV-B-induced cell death and breakdown) .
Limitations and Caveats
Research on okra in humans has been limited to ornamental okra, and may not extend to other varieties. Most potential benefits have only been tested in animals and cells. The effects of dietary okra may not be the same in humans.
Side Effects & Precautions
Okra is safe in typical food amounts and at high doses in animals .
However, it reduced sexual function in animal studies and resulted in increased body weight.
In male rats, okra increased some hormones (testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone), and reduced male fertility .
Effects on sexual function in male animals included :
- Reduced testicle weight and function
- Reduced sperm count and movement
Men trying to have children should consult taking okra with their doctors.
Okra may cause an allergic reaction during harvest (contact dermatitis) .
Do not eat okra at the same time of day that you take metformin pills (used for treating diabetes), as it can reduce the absorption of this medication .
You may eat okra or take supplements if you and your doctor determine that it could be appropriate for your health condition. Remember that taking okra should never be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.
Because okra is not approved by the FDA for any conditions, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on trial and error.
Supplemental doses of 400 mg okra capsules are available. It is also sold as okra pepsin E3.
For kidney disease, doses of 2.5 g, 3x/day of ornamental okra were standard .
Okra is eaten in typical food amounts.
The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of okra users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfDecode. SelfDecode does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.
Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfDecode. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.
Users taking supplemental okra claim that it helped coat their stomach and improve digestion. Some people also gave it to their pets for digestive health.
Some users disliked the slimy texture of okra; cooking it quickly or incorporating it into soups reduces the undesirable texture according to some.