Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First Okra

In case there was any doubt that vegetables fresh out of the garden beat the pants off the store-bought kind, we harvested our first okra the other day and made a big batch of smothered okra. This is our go-to recipe for okra flavor and simplicity. I don't know how you improve upon it: sauteed onions and green bell pepper, sliced okra, fresh white corn off the cob and diced tomatoes. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Who thought of it, where all the flavor comes from, I'm not sure, but this dish is pure magic. A wedge of fresh buttermilk corn bread would be the perfect accompaniment--and a complete meal. (If you are a meat eater, you might add a spoonful of bacon grease to the skillet to pick the flavor up a notch, but it is completely unnecessary.)

With its long, pointy ridged pods, okra is one of the stranger vegetables in the garden. It's in the mallow family, related to cotton and hibiscus. Completely separate from the pods and broad, notched leaves, okra produces these beautiful yellow flowers that open in the morning and close again at night.

I often find myself crawling around on all fours in the garden--weeding, trimming edges, harvesting. A good place to pause is next to the okra bed where you can sit in the cool of the morning and contemplate an okra flower. Often there's a bee or wasp climbing inside, looking for breakfast. And who wouldn't? It looks like the perfect place to hang out.


Julia said...

I couldn't agree more! The okra plant is just so beautiful... and so delicious to eat. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

cookiecrumb said...

Hibiscus! Who knew? That explains the gooeyness,
Congratulations on your harvest.

Jen (Modern Beet) said...

I found okra at the farmer's market last weekend for the first time since last year and was so excited!! I picked up a couple pounds and promptly made spicy pickled okra (a favorite around here)

I often do a dish similar to the one you described, but add a dash of worcestershire sauce for additional flavoring -- I'll have to try the bacon grease version too.

The Baklava Queen said...

An ode to okra... how lovely, Ed. I just picked up my first CSA okra yesterday and promptly fried it when I got home (served with a single sliced really ripe tomato). Heaven.

Ed Bruske said...

Julia, we have a lovely row of okra plants in the garden. As soon as we start harvesting, I wish we had planted more. There's just never enough room.

CC, I didn't know hibiscus had a rep for gooeyness. I've never had a problem with it, except when trying to use it raw in a salad. Never again.

Jen, you read my mind. Or my wife's mind. She's anxious for me to pickle some okra. Since I'm already on a pickling jag, that won't be any problem as soon as our plants start making more. Interesting about the Worcestershire sauce, which has fermented fish as a base. Okra works great with seafood, as in gumbo.

Jennifer, I find myself often rhapsodizing about okra. Watching it grow in the garden always gives me a lift. We like ours fried, too: dipped in buttermilk, then battered with corn meal.

MA said...

I saw okra blossoms for the first time last year.....they are gorgeous. I forgot how pretty until you posted the photos. Thanks Ed. Stay cool.

cookiecrumb said...

Not the flower petals. The green stems are gooey.

Hazel said...

I always grow some okra in my garden. The flowers are just beautiful. I'm looking forward to trying your recipe.