Okra is a plant of the family Malvaceae, which is covered with hairs. It is native to Africa and the tropical regions of the Eastern hemisphere. You can get the plant in Ethiopia, the Eritrea plateau, and eastern Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
Only unripe plant pods are eaten. Inside these pods are dark oval seeds and a large amount of mucus, which can be used as a thickened dish.
This viscous substance inside the pods consists of exopolysaccharides and glycoproteins and has impressive beneficial properties, including protecting against the development of diabetes. Although okra is less nutritious than vegetables such as spinach and kale, it still contains many nutrients.
How To Tell If Okra Is Bad
- Look at it
If the whole pod is dark or it has mold, then it is bad. Also, if there is any slight discoloration at the tips of the okra, it shows it is bad.
If okra is slimy or wet, it is bad and requires to be discarded. It can be slimy or sticky when cooking okra, but it should not be sticky when stored.
Growing Of Okra: Planting And Care
Okra is a thermophilic plant and should not be grown outdoors unless you are in the southern region. This plant needs particular soil and conditions for its maturation.
The soil should be fertile and fertilized. Fertilize it in the fall. While digging, add humus, compost, and superphosphate to the earth.
First, you need to grow seedlings by planting okra seeds immediately in separate containers since this plant does not like transplants around the beginning of May.
To quickly raise and grow into good seedlings, you need to soak the seeds in water for a day and observe the temperature regime throughout the growing period.
The room temperature should be 20-25 degrees. Plant okra in a greenhouse begins after about 45 days, at a distance of 30-60 cm from each other and 50-90 cm – for tall varieties.
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How Is Okra Useful?
- It is a source of calcium and magnesium
Okra contains sufficient amounts of calcium and magnesium to prevent deficiencies in these substances. In addition to bones, calcium is needed to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
It also helps the muscles and nervous system function. For people with lactose intolerance and vegetarians, okra is an excellent source of plant-based calcium that cannot be found in other foods.
- Supports heart health and normalizes cholesterol levels
Okra naturally helps to lower cholesterol levels and therefore reducing the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. In particular, it contains a lot of pectin fiber, which reduces cholesterol levels by altering the formation of bile in the intestines. Nearly half of the contents of okra bolls are soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectin.
In addition, okra mucus can bind excess cholesterol and toxins present in bile acids, making it easier for the liver to remove them. Mucus is also used medicinally as a replacement for plasma or to increase blood volume.
- Strengthens vision thanks to antioxidants
Okra is a rich source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, essential in maintaining visual acuity. Moreover, these substances slow down the development of eye diseases, including macular degeneration.
- Source of protein
Okra is called a superfood because of the high content of dietary fiber, amino acids lysine, and tryptophan in the seeds. The amino acid profile in okra is a popular source of plant-based protein in many ways. The seeds provide the body with essential amino acids that it cannot produce on its own.
- Rich in intestinal-strengthening fiber
Okra also contains insoluble fiber, which supports gastrointestinal health and reduces the risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer. It also promotes liver detoxification and has antibacterial properties. Okra may improve the communication between the microbiota, gut, and brain by regulating inflammatory responses.
This vegetable can support the barrier function of the gastrointestinal tract and lubricate the intestines. Thus, okra can act as a natural laxative, relieving stool and preventing constipation. Unlike coarser laxatives, which can irritate the intestines, okra mucus gently promotes waste removal.
How To Cook Okra?
Before cooking, wash the okra thoroughly, wipe it with a stiff cloth to remove hairs, and cut the stem off. To prevent the pods from darkening, you should not use cast-iron dishes for cooking. And to prevent the okra from spreading during the cooking process, you should not stir it with a spoon and subject it to a long heat treatment.
When preparing sauces or soups, the mucus secreted by this exotic vegetable can be an essential asset. It will give the required viscosity to the prepared dish. If the appearance of consistency in the dish is undesirable, the okra should be fried, thinly sliced, or cooked until the mucus completely evaporates.
How To Preserve Okra?
There are several ways to preserve okra. It can be closed in jars either separately or combined with other vegetables. It would be best to remember that okra should be young and, preferably, recently plucked from the garden. Do not preserve a vegetable if it has been in the refrigerator for several days. If the okra is cut across in small pieces, it will look very beautiful in a jar, like little stars.
You can also preserve it whole, but you only need to cut off the tip of the stem. Before you start canning okra, you need to prepare the vegetable or vegetables if you decide to combine okra with anything else. First, wash all the ingredients well and prepare the spices and marinade, which should simmer over low heat before distributing it into the jars.
Sterilize the jars, put all the ingredients, cover with boiling marinade, and pour it into a saucepan. Repeat this procedure several times. At the very end, pour the prepared marinade over the chopped and packed okra in jars and close hermetically with sterilized lids.
Okra is a vegetable that has been used both for food and for medicinal purposes for many years. It is a rich calcium source that helps strengthen bones, heart, and eye health, lower cholesterol levels, normalize blood sugar, improve digestion, and prevent constipation. The pods of the plant are eaten, both raw and cooked. Also, the seeds are helpful because they are enclosed in the nutritious pulp inside the fruit.