Okra is a favorite vegetable around here, so I always try to grow it every summer. It’s not difficult to grow, but I find it to be the ninja of gardening. Everyone says okra is easy to grow, and I would agree, but no one mentions what a pain it is to harvest!
If I turn my back on it for a second during these full, busy summer days, it silently and immediately turns from innocent, beautiful hibiscus-like flower to 3-foot long pods that could plausibly be a murder weapon. With okra, size does matter, and big okra pods, while they appear to just be “more okra,” are actually inedible. I can’t even slice through them with our sharpest, carbon-steel knife, the one we use for butchering because it slices easily through tough hide and sinew!
There seems to be no middle ground for okra. I laugh to myself in January when I am reading seed catalogue descriptions of okra varieties that say things like, “best picked between 2-4 inches,” an apparently mythical period in okra development.
However, after many unsuccessful okra years, I finally found an okra I am happy with. It’s a variety from India called Evertender okra, that has proved itself to still be edible, even in my garden!
A new vegetable I am growing this year, and am pleased to test out in the kitchen, are edible luffa gourds. They are strange-looking, and I hesitated because they looked so tough. Fried up just like okra, however, they proved to be delicious, and gave off a perfume-like smell while cooking (it vanished by the time we were eating it).
Southern Fried Okra (or Luffa gourds)
3 cups sliced okra pods (Less, if you, like me, fail to find them in the mythical tender stage!)
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup fat for frying (I use chicken fat (schmaltz), or lard, but olive oil or ghee would also be good)
- Mix the flours, salt and pepper together with a fork (I ground them fresh, and the wheat flour was whole wheat).
- Shake the dry ingredients over the okra while the oil is heating in a frying pan.
- When the oil/fat is quite hot, scoop the okra out of the flour with a slotted spoon, shaking off any extra flour, and put it in to fry.
- Fry until golden and crispy. Serve immediately!
The same for the luffa gourds:
Just slice them and proceed with the recipe. They had a very different flavor than the okra, a bit like zucchini, but they fried up very nicely.