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Okra grows in an elongated, lantern shape vegetable. It is a fuzzy, green colored, and ribbed pod that is approximately 2-7 inches in length. This vegetable is more famously known by its rows of tiny seeds and slimy or sticky texture when cut open. Okra is also known as bamia, bindi, bhindi, lady's finger, and gumbo, is a member of the cotton (Mallow) family.
Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. It is a good source of vitamin C. It is low in calories and is fat-free.
(See also: Okra History and Facts - Okra Trivia & Statistics - Recipes)
Okra is available year-round, with a peak season during the summer months. It is available either frozen or fresh. When buying fresh okra, make sure that you select dry, firm, okra. They should be medium to dark green in color and blemish-free. Fresh okra should be used the same day that it was purchased or stored paper bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Severe cold temperatures will speed up okra decay. Do not wash the okra pods until ready to use, or it will become slimy.
When preparing, remember that the more it is cut, the slimier it will become. Its various uses allow for okra to be added to many different recipes. Okra is commonly used as a thicken agent in soups and stews because of its sticky core. However, okra may also be steamed, boiled, pickled, sautÃ©ed, or stir-fried whole. Okra is a sensitive vegetable and should not be cooked in pans made of iron, copper or brass since the chemical properties turns okra black.
Most okra pods are ready to be harvested in less than two months of planting. If the okra is going be consumed, then these pods must be harvested when they are very young. They are usually picked when they are two to three inches long, or tender stage.
Okra pods grow quickly from the tender to tough stage. Pods are considered mature when they exceed three inches in length. Mature okra is tough and is not recommended for use in certain recipes.
Most people who have eaten or have cooked okra, know about the okra slime. Some recipes call for the whole okra, but how do you deal with the okra slime?
There are few ways to minimize the slime:
Simply trim the off the ends and avoid puncturing the okra capsule.
You can also minimize the slime factor by avoiding the tendency to overcook okra.
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