Whether you grow your own, or you pick it up at the grocery store or Farmers’ market, okra is one of those vegetables that cooks (outside the South, where it’s a summertime staple) are not sure whether they like.
A member of the mallow plant family, okra is the edible pod part of the plant. (see photo)
For starters, the vegetable is fuzzy on the outside, like a kiwi fruit. Next, the insides of the plant are mucilaginous (aka sort of slimy), resulting in the characteristic “goo” when the seed pods are cooked.
The mucilage is actually pretty good for you: okra contains a usable form of soluble fiber when sliced open, and can be useful for thickening up a soup or stew or traditional gumbo. Keep the okra pods intact, and use shorter cooking times to minimize the “goo factor.” (Or offset the effect with a little acidity — tomatoes, vinegar, or lemon juice).
But perhaps the best (and easiest) thing you can do with okra is to make it into pickles. Here’s what you need to do:
Fresh Okra (about 1/2 lb per pint jar)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 Thai Chile or other dried hot pepper (you choose the degree of spiciness)
1/2 tsp Dill Seed
1 Cup Vinegar (I like the heat of Jalapeno White Balsamic Vinegar, but distilled white, cider, or any White Balsamic Vinegar will do)
1 Cup water
2 tsp Kosher Salt
Pint canning jar and banded lid
Lay the jar on its side, and pack as much of the okra, garlic, Thai chile and dill seeds into the jar as will fit. Stand the jar upright.
In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, and salt. Quickly bring to a boil over high heat. Remove pan from burner and ladle hot pickling solution into the pint jar, leaving 1/2 inch of “headspace” at the top.
Close lid tightly on jar, and process in a boiling water bath where the hot water covers the top of the jar (plus 1 inch) for 15 minutes. Remove jar from water bath and allow to cool before storing in a cool, dry place.
Makes one pint, but is easily scaled for bumper crops of okra.