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Ode to Okra

5 September 2006

O okra plant, you grow so tall
You make my daughter seem ver’ small!
And now your growth has hit its peak;
So many pods we eat each week.
Prolific-ness, your raison d’ètre,
Gives me great joy, and then—cold sweat!

Can I keep up with such largess?
I’m thinking no (but that’s a guess).
I offer to my friends your fruit.
I don’t hear back. You’re worse than zuke!
So much of you for four of us;
(Perhaps real soon you’ll hear me cuss.)

For it’s waste not, want not, that is true.
Tomato, pepper, garlic, too—
It’s okra’s own encounter group:
For gumbo, stew, and p’raps a soup!
But fried? Not good for heart and paunch.
…I think I’ll freeze you for the nonce.

I love okra. I love to grow it, I love to cook with it, and I love how healthy it is.

It is so easy to grow (it’s in the same family as hibiscus and hollyhock), and each plant produces lots of pods. The down side of this is that you have to keep up the harvesting, or the pods will keep growing and growing and GROWING. And once they get too big, they get pretty tough and inedible. Lucky for us okra growers, they last a good long time in the fridge, so you can gather them as they get to perfect size, and then wait until you have enough to make a gumbo, stew, or soup.

I don’t normally deep-fry my okra (actually, I don’t normally deep-fry anything: the smell of hot grease just overwhelms the kitchen and in past experiences [deep-fried day-lily blossoms, zucchini blossoms, zucchini coins, etc.] my stomach doesn’t do well with too much batter-fried “goodness”). Most of the time I will saute it to get the glutinousness going (you did know that about okra, right? That when you saute it, it “exudes a unique mucilaginous juice”—I know, it sounds gross, but actually, it’s what thickens Louisiana gumbo, and isn’t that tasty?) before adding in the other ingredients, like tomatoes, peppers, and corn (I’ve also added in eggplant, garlic, more tomatoes…). If the unique mucilaginous grosses you out, I also have a recipe for okra and corn pudding (which is more of a dense souffle).

It is a super-vegetable. This is a term coined (I think) by Laurel Robertson in that bible of vegetarianism: Laurel’s Kitchen. Super-vegetables are the dark leafy greens (kale, chard, bok choy) edible pod peas, brussels sprouts, and (ta daaa!) okra. They are the nutrient powerhouses of the vegetable world, and you really ought to try to get at least one serving of super-vegetables each day. Really. It’s for your own good. Why not have some okra?

Come to think of it, have some of my okra. We’ve got so much, and it’s true, I sent out an email offer to a group of friends for free okra, and no one has responded. So I’ve got plenty!

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