What is okra and how do I use it?​
What is Okra

Okra is a heat-loving plant with fuzzy, green pods that play a starring role in most gumbo recipes. Because it’s in season from May to September each year, you may have seen it in the produce section of your grocery store recently. There’s much more to okra than soups and stews, so if you’ve never tried this versatile, nutrient-packed vegetable, now is the time.

While the origin of okra is often disputed, it grows well in a wide variety of warm climates including those found in Africa, South Asia, China, Australia, and the southern United States. It is adaptable to conditions that are both humid and dry, provides high yields, and is largely unaffected by pests and disease. A tall, sturdy plant, okra can reach up to five metres in height. The leaves are heart-shaped with long, thick stems and the flowers are typically pale yellow in colour. While most any part of the plant is edible, the pods are the most common and the easiest to prepare.

Inside the pods, there are small seeds and a mucilaginous juice. The juice can have a slimy mouthfeel, but it’s also great as a thickening agent. We’ve developed a delicious recipe for Chicken and Oyster Gumbo  and have guidelines for pressure canned okra (PDF 476 kb). For the weeknight cook, roasting (PDF 157 kb) or sautéing the pods whole is another excellent way to get all the benefits of okra without the sliminess. Simply toss them in oil with your seasonings of choice and roast at 425°F - 450°​F or sauté over medium high heat. The okra is finished when it’s tender and browned. 
Okra is packed full of fibre, vitamin C, and folate, making it both a delicious and nutritious addition to your summer meals. With so many tasty ways to prepare it, we think it’s time to give this under-appreciated vegetable a try. 


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Roasted Whole Okra

30 small fresh okra pods (about 4 cups)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. 

Place okra in a single layer in a greased foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Bake, turning once, until lightly browned and fork tender, about 18 – 20 minutes. Serves 4.


Roasted Sliced Okra

30 small fresh okra pods (about 4 cups), sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. 

Place okra in a single layer in a greased foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Bake, stirring once, until lightly browned and fork tender, about 18 – 20 minutes. Serves 4.
 
Last updated on July 26, 2017