Spotlight on Okra
Okra, also known as Ladies’ Fingers, is valued for its edible green seed pods. The products of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in a characteristic “goo” or slime when the seed pods are cooked. They can be cooked, pickled, eaten raw or included in salads. In this post, we shine a spotlight on Okra and share how you can most out this flowering plant’s phytonutrients-rich pods.
The Okra plant bears numerous dark green coloured pods that are between 5 and 15 centimetres in length. They are best harvested early so they don’t become tough. Inside, the pods feature small, round and mucilaginous white coloured seeds arranged in vertical rows. The pods are eaten as a vegetable.
Health Benefits of Okra
- Low calories. They provide 30 calories per 100g and don’t contain any saturated fats or cholesterol. They are rich sources of dietary fibre, minerals, and vitamins; and, are often recommended by nutritionists in cholesterol controlling and weight loss programs.
- Digestion. The mucilage substance found in the pods help in smooth peristalsis of digested food through the gut and eases constipation conditions.
- Blood Sugar – for diabetic individuals, studies suggest okra pods may help alleviate diabetic effects, due to its myricetin content. The Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences also found that there is a link between okra and decreased blood sugar levels.
- Antidepressant – studies have demonstrated okra to being linked to mood improvement, making it helpful for people suffering from depression.
- Abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, fibre and folates – because of this abundance, consuming the pods has been linked to improvements in vision, skin conditions, boosting the immune system and even preventing colorectal cancer.
Selection and Storage
Choose immature okra pods, these pods should look crispy and feature an attractively rich green colour. Avoid those that are over-ripen, sunken, discoloured, have spots, cuts or look mushy. Once at home, eat them fresh, within the first couple of days.
Prep & Serving Ideas
- Some okra has been subjected to insecticide/pesticide sprays, so make sure to wash the pods thoroughly in cold water in order to remove dirt, soil and any residual insecticides.
- Trim the top steam end using a paring knife. Though not required, you can also trim the ends too.
- Some people equate the taste to that of eggplant, however the texture is quite different, so cooking it in a stew can create a whole different ambience altogether.
- When cooked down, it develops a gelatinous quality that lends itself well to soups.
- If you want to reduce the vegetable’s mucilage and use it in drier dishes, add some lemon juice.
- For a healthier option, simply steam the pods (whole or cut) and enjoy them as a side dish with rice and vegetables.