Okra: Slimy and Sexy

Okra is one of the oddest-looking, peculiarly-named, sleazy-tasting vegetable known to mankind – or so to those who recognize it. It just needs a little more advertising if you ask me because okra is a rather versatile vegetable once you get to know it. Not just that, but it has its own nutritious wonders as well.

Some nutrients that okra contains, in significant amounts, are protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin A, potassium and folate. It is one of the few vegetables that have high quality plant protein of 2 grams per 100 grams of uncooked amount. These proteins and oil found in okra seeds are amino acids such as cysteine, tryptophan and other sulfur amino acids.

Yes, you can get locally grown okras!

Some say that it is just too hard to find locally grown okras since it is not native to Canadian soil. Okra is most commonly grown in tropical regions of the world, like South and South East Asia, Ethiopia or Africa. This plant is very fond of the sun and tropical heat. It is also most likely to grow in slightly acidic soil. Here in Ontario, okra can be propagated in the fields during spring periods with normal irrigation needs as long as ideal weather conditions are present, or in greenhouses all year round. This means that we can get fresh and locally grown okras in Ontario from early summer until mid-autumn.

Tips on how to select your okra:

As interesting as this vegetable sounds, not many people know how to pick and purchase good quality okra. These tips are easy to remember when buying okra from your local grocery or food store:

  • Choose smaller okras, they are younger, crisper and contain less slime.
  • Avoid large okras that have deep green color for they tend to be tougher and taste grassier.
  • Store okra in the fridge for no more than 2 days, after this time its nutrient value and flavor diminishes.

How do you cook it?

Okra is very easy to prepare. No need to peel, deseed or soak. All you need is to wash it thoroughly, slice it as you please (remove the ends if preferred) and cook it as needed. Another benefit of this vegetable is it can be eaten raw in a salad, parboiled with a sauce or dip of your choice, or with soy sauce, Asian-style!

  • When cooking it, retain low to medium heat to keep the nutrients intact.
  • Tomatoes are very effective to cook it with because its acidity helps cut through the slimy texture of okra.
  • Okra is a very useful thickener in stews and soups due to its natural slime.
  • If you want to get rid of the slime, frying or grilling it is one of the best ways. Oven-frying is also an effective way if you don’t want the excess fat.

Nutrition Facts for the Health Nuts:

  • The slimy substance in okra, called mucilage, is a very good agent for water reabsorption in our body. This helps in trapping cholesterols, toxins and excess bile in our gastrointestinal tract and is disposed of through stool.
  • With 3.2 grams of fiber per 100 grams of okra, it is very good for gut health and since it is also very high in water content, it does not cause gassiness or bloating.
  • As well, okra aids in the growth of probiotics, the good bacteria that our digestive tract needs for the synthesis of Vitamin B complex.


Shrimp and Okra Hushpuppies with Creamy Lemon Dip


1 cup self-rising yellow cornmeal mix

1/2 cup self-rising flour

1 cup medium-size raw shrimp, roughly chopped

Click to see savings

1 teaspoon Creole seasoning

2 tbsp diced onion

2 tbsp diced red and green bell peppers

2 tbsp celery

1/2 cup frozen cut okra, thawed and chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Click to see savings

3/4 cup beer

Click to see savings

Canola oil

For Creamy Lemon Dip

2 T Lemon juice

1 ½ cups mayonnaise

1 teaspoon finely chopped dill

salt and pepper to taste


  1. Stir together cornmeal mix and flour in large bowl until combined.
  2. Sprinkle shrimp with Creole seasoning. Add shrimp, onion mixture, and okra to cornmeal mixture. Stir in egg and beer just until moistened. Let stand 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Pour oil to depth of 4 inches into a Dutch oven; heat to 350°.
  4. Drop batter by level tablespoonfuls into hot oil, and fry in batches, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack over paper towels; serve immediately.
  5. To make the dip: Mix all ingredients together and adjust seasoning as needed.

Yield: Makes 30 balls

Source: Southern Living, July 2008 (link: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/shrimp-and-okra-hush-puppies-10000001816163/
Photo Credit: NatalieMaynor via Compfight cc