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okraDid you know Okra is in the same family as cotton and cocoa? Okra was first cultivated in and around Ethiopia around the 12th Century B.C. and was grown by the ancient Egyptians. Now, it is a staple of Southern, Cajun, and Creole cooking.

You’ll find it in CSA boxes and at farmers’ markets May, June, July, August, September, and October. Plant seeds in April and May. Note: okra plants have irritating hairs that cause rashes on some people. Wear gloves and long sleeves.

Planting

Okra seeds won’t germinate in soil cooler than 70 degrees F. It is best to start your okra plants from seeds planting them in fertile soil a foot to a foot and a half apart in sun that drains well. They need full sun, 8 to 10 hours a day.

They grow quickly in warm weather and will generally only need to be watered and weeded for maintenance.  The plants will grow between 3 and 5 feet tall and will flower a few weeks before the okra is ripe and ready for harvest. When the seed pods are about 3 inches long and still tender, harvest.  The plants will continue producing until killed by a frost. Trim the plants every 2 or 3 days or they’ll turn woody.

Nutritional facts

Okra is a great source of Vitamin C and its fiber helps to maintain healthy intestines and balance out blood sugar levels.  Okra also helps to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestines.  The seeds are a great source for protein.

Recipes

Here’s a staff favorite:

SPICY PAN-FRIED OKRA

by Chef Virgina Willis

Serves 4-6

  • 1/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 1/2 lb Fresh Okra
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 Coarse Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Trim the stem end of the okra and cut pods into quarter inch rounds.  heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  When the oil begins to smoke, add the okra, onion, and jalapeño pepper.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Cook okra, stirring often, until crisp and the onion is medium brown, about 10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the okra and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.