Marion’s Favorites: Okra

Daddy, this is slimy!  I can not eat this.

I remembered my daughter Norah saying that a few years ago when we had okra for dinner.  I grew up eating okra like I did with collard greens.  My mother cooked okra quite a bit and I liked it immediately.  I’m a texture eater.  The texture has to be right or I will not eat it.  The okra’s texture agreed with my taste buds and it’s one of the few foods I have eaten all of my life.

Okra came to America around mid 1600s and the word has a possible a West African origin of Igbo descent.  Okuru is the word for okra.  Also, the Spanish word ocra is possible origin for okra as well. This fruit is most common in gumbo and considered a key ingredient for that wonderful dish.

However, the history of okra can be traced back to the 12th and 13th centuries with the Moors from Spain and the Egyptians.  Also, Okra’s origin has been traced to Ethiopia.  Both the Moors and Egyptians cultivated okra and was considered a common dish at that time.  Okra has been cooked, roasted, or eaten raw in salads.  I have eaten okra all kinds of ways and there is not much of a difference in the various ways it has been prepared.

Here are some fun facts about Okra:

1) Raw okra is 2% protein, 7% carbohydrates and 90% water.  Okra is rich in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K.

2) Okra is a fruit often mistaken for a vegetable.

3) Okra is a good source of folate.  Folate is an important nutrient for pregnant women. It helps lower the risk of a neural tube defect, which affects the brain and spine of a developing fetus.

4) A popular name for okra around the world is lady’s fingers.

5) Okra and cotton are both members of the mallow (Malvaceae) family of plants.  These two have shared relationship in being introduced to America through the Atlantic Slave Trade.

6) Thomas Jefferson started planting okra at his Monticello estate in 1809.

7) Okra seeds can be brewed as a substitute for coffee.

Okra is a fruit that has versatility, tremendous health benefits, and a long history throughout the world.  I’m glad it has remained a part of my diet for all these years and don’t let the slimy texture keep you away from this wonderful fruit.

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