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Okra belongs to the botanical family Malvaceae. Okra pods are 10-15cm long and grow at bushes up to 2,50m tall. Its origin lies in Africa, but since its discovery about 4000 years ago it has spread widely trough all continents. The pod is called a seed vessel by botanists. Similar to chilli or pepper it contains many white seeds. The seed vessel is hexangular or octangular when cut laterally. Pods are harvested unripe, when they are green and covered with fine, short hair.

When cooked, okras give of a slimy liquid, which thickens the cooking liquid and causes many people not to like them.

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Tips how to use okra

  • If okra is blanched in water with vinegar, it will not give of its slimy thickening agent during further preparation.
  • Alternatively you can put whole okra pods for one or two hours in water with lemon juice.
  • Cut the pods in large pieces after they have been rinsed and fry in oil over a large heat for a couple of minutes before you follow the recipe for further preparation.

For some dishes the slime is welcome and necessary, for example Gumbo, a stew from the creole kitchen. Gumbo is one of the African names for okra and at the same time name for stews that are cooked with okra. Nowadays the word Gumbo is also used for stews without okra but very seldom for the vegetable itself.

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