Okra, or Abelmoschus esculentus, is a perennial flowering plant belonging to the mallows (Malvaceae) family. Okra fruits are when they are just about to mature, usually after 45 to 60 days. Okra pods are 5 to 15 centimeters in length, earning them the name ‘ladies’ fingers’. Okra is harvested for its fibrous fruits and pods, which contain round, white mucilaginous seeds that are usually used in cooking as a binding agent. They are also used in naturopathic medicines. Okra has become a popular vegetable in North America and markets around the world. Fresh okra is available in many stores around the United States all year.
The edible seeds are essential to Caribbean dishes such as jambo. They can also be pressed into a yellow-green oil, which is high in unsaturated fats and protein and produces a high yield of oil. This oil can be used in cooking or as a biofuel.
Okra is cultivated in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate regions around the world. In fact, it is one of the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetable species in the world. The okra plant can tolerate heavy clay, thus making it an important export crop in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
Okra has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any vegetable. The pods do not contain any saturated fats or cholesterols and contains a rich variety of dietary fibers, minerals and vitamins. It contains beta-carotene, xanthin, and lutein (compounds essential for vision), and important minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese, and magnesium. Among the vitamins contained in the pods are B-complex groups like niacin, thiamin, and panthothenic acid; vitamin K, which is a co-factor for blood clotting enzymes and is required for strengthening bones; vitamin A, which is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin; and vitamin C, which boosts immunity.
Bengali Style Okra
A delicious dish from East India, this recipe is easy and quick to make and can be enjoyed hot with parathas or plain chapatis.
- 2 cups okra
- 1 tbsp poppy seeds
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp oil
- 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped green chilies
- Salt, to taste
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp chili
- Wash the okra and pat dry on a kitchen towel. Trim off both edges of all the ladies’ fingers and cut halves them horizontally.
- Combine the poppy seeds and mustard seeds and grind in a mixer to a fine powder.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick kadhai, add the okra, and cook on a medium flame for 8 to 10 minutes or until they become soft. Stir occasionally.
- Add the green chilies, prepared powder, salt, sugar, turmeric powder and chili powder. Mix well and cook on a medium flame 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.