Here’s a fun party trick to find out who has some ties to the South. Do a free association exercise with them—say a word and have them say the first word that pops into their head. Try a few so as not to be so obvious, then spring “okra” on them. If they immediately counter with “slime” well you know they came from, lived in, or have family from the South. Pure Northerners will simply shrug and stare at you blankly.
Whatever your negative association or non-association with okra may be, I encourage you to give this artfully-shaped, fuzzy green pod a try. Higher in protein than nearly any other veggie with a meaty texture to match, okra has a lot more to offer than slime. In fact the slime can all but be eliminated depending on the cooking technique you use.
Even if you already love okra and embrace the slime, the possibilities of this veggie are most likely greater than what you have experienced. Japan, India, Latin America and most of Africa regularly include okra in their meals with flavorings and preparation methods that expand beyond fried or gumbo. This recipe is Indian inspired. Grilling the whole pod eliminates slime altogether. The piquant masala paired with the smoky flavor from grilling make this dish highly addictive. On hot summer nights, we eat these spicy little treats like popcorn washing them down with a cold fruity beer.
Buying, Storing & Preparing: Okra is available in Wisconsin from August to October. Buy them at the farmers market when you can as they can be hard to find in the off season at the grocery store. Some varieties can grow up to 7 inches and still remain tender, but unless your farmer verifies that her variety grows that long, get pods no bigger than 3 inches long.
Okra is extremely sensitive to cold and the flesh will begin to blacken if exposed to temperatures below 45 degrees F, so store in a paper bag wrapped in a canvas bag in the warmest part of the fridge. Freshly harvested okra stored like this can last up to 10 days.
Slicing into the seed pod releases the thickening agent or “slime” so trim cap by cutting just above the pod.
- 1 pound okra, 3 inches long; washed, caps trimmed
- 1 t curry powder (or equal parts cumin, coriander, turmeric)
- 1 t chili powder
- ¼ t good garlic powder
- ½ t regular salt
- 1 T oil
- 1 lime, sliced into wedges for garnish
- In a large bowl, add curry powder, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and mix.
- Add okra and toss. Drizzle in oil and toss further so that all the pods are uniformly coated with spice and oil.
- Using a wooden skewer soaked in water or a metal skewer, thread 6 or 7 okra. Threading a 2nd skewer through the okra, will prevent the okra from spinning on the skewer and make it easier to turn. Alternatively, line the grill with *non-stick aluminum foil, poke holes in it, and place the pods on the foil skipping the skewers altogether.
- Place okra on a heated grill.
- Grill for 7 – 8 minutes on each side over medium heat. Serve immediately, garnishing with lime juice.
- *Do not use cast iron, aluminum or exposed copper pots for cooking (especially frying or stewing) okra; it will cause the okra to turn black.
Cooking with Kids: Have the kids measure out the spices and mix them. They can even toss and coat the okra; just have them use a spoon to do the job or find a lid to cover the bowl. I have learned the hard way that little kids (at least mine) are not coordinated enough to toss oil, spices and veggies in an open bowl no matter how large the bowl and how few the okra.
Eating okra can be a challenge for kids and many adults. It’s a texture thing as the taste is very subtle. Let the lime garnish help. Kids seem to love the sour of citrus and the acid cuts the slime. Drench their okra in lime juice for their first taste.