Okra is a superfood!
Image courtesy: Acadian Family Farm
It's not often that we get to celebrate comfort food as being good for us, but prepared the right way, Okra is one we can nosh on and feel good about ourselves!
Obviously, to leverage the health benefits we'll have to skip the cornmeal breading and deep-frying, but there are lots of great ways to enjoy this nutrient-packed veggie (that's technically a fruit).
Here are a few ideas on how to add okra to your dinner:
Sliced and sauteed in neutral oil (I use canola) and sprinkled with kosher salt
Grilled whole (Use a grill basket or put it on skewers)
Sliced up with other summer vegetables and smoked sausage for a quick and easy skillet dinner
What are the health benefits of okra?
Okra might just help you stay healthy because it provides key nutrients known to protect health and fight off illness, like vitamins A, C, and Zinc. In fact, one cup of uncooked okra provides 14% daily value of vitamin A and a whopping 26% daily value of vitamin C. As for zinc, one uncooked cup of okra will provide 5% daily value.
Eating okra with a meal might also help balance the absorption of dietary sugars, helping to regulate blood sugar according to WebMD. The site also includes okra in their section on diabetes due to its many benefits.
Fiber has a myriad of health benefits, such as aiding in digestion, helping maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it detoxifies without a "detox," and it helps you feel full longer after you eat. Great news... okra is loaded with fiber! That same one cup of uncooked okra we've been talking about provides 3.2 grams of fiber. That's 11% of the daily value, in just one cup.
How to grow okra
Okra is super easy to grow. In fact, at my last walkthrough of the farmer's market, I didn't see tons of it. Not every vendor had it. My guy at Acadian Family Farm did which is good because I didn't have space for it this year.
I have to assume that's because okra is so easy to grow that the farmers assume if someone wants okra, they'll probably grow it in their home garden.
And anyone who does grow okra knows that it is super prolific. You'll have to pick it regularly. And a word to the wise, when you harvest, cover your arms and wear gloves. The velcro-y texture of the leaves will leave you itching. It's part of the plant's defense mechanism.
Okra likes it hot. Really hot. I don't plant it until daytime temps are consistently in the 80s (26+ C) for at least 2 weeks. That's typically late May or early June in my climate.
It needs full sun and will take ALL the sun. I say that because in Oklahoma, 12 hour days with intense direct sun can be too much for other "full sun" plants. Okra will take extreme sun, like few other plants will.
It doesn't tolerate heavy clay but it doesn't take much to get it established. In my heavy clay, I work a few inches of compost and broken down wood chips into the top 3-4 inches of soil. With that treatment, the plants can get established and will be strong enough to send deep taproots into the tough clay below.
Plants mature and start producing edible pods in about 60 days depending on the variety.
The most popular variety is open-pollinated (aka heirloom), called Clemson Spineless. It's a great variety to start with for a beginning seed saver.
Editor's note: this post is part of a collaboration with Acadian Family Farm, home of the AFF Veggie Club, a unique CSA model that doesn't lock buyers into weekly charges. Learn more.
Nutritional information is taken from www.nutritionvalue.org