Most people find the sliminess of okra unpleasant. But did you know there is a way to enjoy okra with very little of the slime — so little that it’s negligible? It’s so simple. I wish I had known about it much earlier.
No one in my family was an okra eater until a few years ago. But we learned to appreciate this notoriously slimy vegetable that some people call ladies’ fingers and it has become a semi-regular part of our vegetable shopping list.
In fact, we have come to like okra so much that when we started replanting the garden earlier this year, okra was one of the new seedlings that found a home there. There are little bumps in the branches now and those bumps will turn into ready-for-harvest pods in a few weeks. I didn’t want to take photos prematurely or I might jinx their growth.
Growing okra in a home garden
Okra likes warm weather and without a lot of watering.
Once mature, okra can bear pods all-year ’round in any region with temperate climate and frost-free winters.
The best time to harvest pods is while they are young and the length is no longer than your index finger.
Two things that make okra unpopular
Often okra can be rather tough.
And they’re slimy. The moment they are cut, even before they go into the cooking pan, the slime is already all over the knife, the cutting board…
Okra is tender while it’s young
So, I wrote earlier that the best time to harvest the pods is when they are still small. That’s the stage when the fibers in are still tender. As the okra matures, those fibers toughen and thicken.
If you’re not growing okra but like to integrate it into family meals, buy young okra. Okra is one vegetable where the rule “the bigger, the better” just does NOT apply. On the contrary.
One caveat though. There are many varieties of okra and some stay small even when fully mature. Always check the skin. The thicker it feels, the older the okra is.
Getting rid of okra slime
Well, you can’t get rid of it totally. But you can minimize it so that it’s barely noticeable.
The trick is in the speed in which the okra cooks. The shorter the cooking time, the less the slime. Add okra to stew that takes a few hours to cook, and the okra’s slime will be all over the stew. The good news? Okra thickens stews very effectively.
Since what we want is to get as little of the sliminess as is humanly possible, the cooking time of the okra has to be short. And that makes the age of the okra doubly significant. The younger the okra, the less time it needs to cook.
What cooking methods are suitable for okra?
Deep frying. Stir frying. Grilling. In fact, any cooking method that involves intense heat.
High cooking temperature + short cooking time = least slimy okra.
We’ve been observing those two okra commandments — young okra only AND short cooking time — and we haven’t been disappointed yet.
Do I have plenty of okra recipes? Not just yet. Like I wrote earlier, we’re rather recent converts.