By N.A. Booko
Pittsboro, NC – I dearly love okra! Fried or boiled. I can’t even remember as a child being without okra. I know my mother fried it and so did her mother; my father’s mother and probably all my relatives. Everybody’s fried okra was a little different from the next. Of course one thing that usually make the crisp frying successful was the use of lard. Everybody used it well into the 1950s. Then other forms of oil came on the scene. In my estimation, none ever fried it like lard. But I kissed lard goodbye decades ago. And for the most part have cut way down on my fried dishes. Meat and fowl disappeared from my diet more than thirty five years ago.
But back to frying okra. I still use virgin olive oil but promiscuous will also work well. Okra is especially good with rice and pasta dishes. I use course ground corn meal ( Chatham marketplace) and just a little flour mixed. Salt to taste. The secret to good well cooked fried okra is not to try and fry it all at one time. Divide and only fry one part at a time, usually just covering the bottom of frying pan. Turning is easier and you get an even crust. I shake the pan usually instead of trying to turn with a spatula.
I have no luck growing it in my own garden, due to lack of sun. But I get it at the markets and produce departments at local grocery stores. Usually, you can’t go wrong. This week, I picked up a small package with probably a dozen or so pods. It looked OK to me. When I started to cut it up, a large percentage just didn’t want to be cut; very hard and tough. I was a little taken back, but went ahead, forcing the sharp knife thru each pod; making those wonderful little green seed dotted pinwheels.
Down to the last pod. This one was a doosie. No way was it gonna let me chop it up. It was hard as a bone and refused to yield in any manner. I really hated to do it, but I tossed it in the compost pot.
Several hours later, I felt so stupid for letting a pod of okra get the best of me- so I fished it out of compost and laid it aside to dry. The idea, I going to get my money’s worth; okra’s liking it or not. I would dry the pod, harvest the seeds. In March, buy a sunny acre. Plant four or five rows with the seed from that pod and get my money’s worth. I refuse to be outdone by a pod of okra.
The botanical or scientific name for okra is Abelmoschus esculentus and is related to the common hibiscus