Vegetable Memories-Okra

cowhorn okra pod

We’re planning to grow okra again this year.  A couple of years ago I grew okra for indoor arrangements and for fall/winter containers. If you leave the pods on the plants, they eventually get woody, curl and split–looking like linen-colored lilies!  The plants were easy to grow and got to be 3-4’ tall with sturdy stems.  The pods remained attached even after they dried.

When my father visited us this Christmas, we talked about foods he ate growing up in New Orleans–he will be 90 this year.  We also revisited our favorites that he and my mother cooked for us growing up in Louisiana and Texas (and Pennsylvania).  The first in this series is fried okra.  It is easy to grow, easy to cook and tres bon!  The recipe:  Select the tender young pods, wash them, slice them into coins, roll in corn meal, fry in canola oil (in a cast iron skillet, of course!) until lightly brown, drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve with a spicy Bloody Mary—delicious!

So this year we are planting okra to eat.   We are growing it inside the fence since the deer and bunnies both like the pods.  We are going to plant Carmine Splendor (from Jung’s Seeds). The pods are deep red and turn green when cooked. We could also try Scheeper’s Heirloom Red Okra. Okra likes to be planted when the soil is plenty warm, so we will be setting out seedlings we start inside around May 1st. We are starting the seeds indoors March 22nd.  We may grow Cowhorn Okra, an heirloom variety that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello.  Once it starts having pods, you can pick them every couple of days and they just keep bearing till the weather gets cold.     FAMILY: Malvaceae. GENUS: Abelmoschus. SPECIES: esculentus.  (Related to the mallows.)

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