Okra has a very unique flavor that you either love or hate. The flavor resembles green beans, celery, peas or even eggplant. Okra could also be described as having a flavor similar to broccoli.
Okra or Okro, Abelmoschus esculentus, known in many English-speaking countries as ladies’ fingers or ochro, is a flowering plant in the mallow family. Its edible green seed pods are a food. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of West African, Ethiopian, and South Asian origins (source).
I’ll be honest, okra can be weird. Although it’s one of my favorite vegetables to eat, I can understand why so many people don’t even want to get near it.
I have a family member who prefers to not even be in the same room as okra. Just the smell of it makes him cringe.
I’ve always loved okra. To me, the flavor is fresh and it’s easy to learn to love and I say “learn” because in addition to the flavor, okra has a unique texture.
Here in Arkansas, fried okra is a southern tradition. I tend to prefer fried okra over boiled okra because it takes away that small pungent flavor.
Although Okra has a great flavor, it’s the slimy characteristic that turns most people away. In fact, the slimy “sap” is what makes okra a key ingredient in gumbo. The sap acts as a thickening agent that keeps gumbo from being waterey.
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How To Avoid Slimy Okra
If you want to avoid slimy okra, you need to cook it properly. A good way to do that is by frying it or cooking it with something acidic like tomatoes.
Southerners know that fried okra doesn’t require much dressing up—when you try to get fancy, you run the risk of losing the true spirit of the dish. The process of frying okra may be simple, but the result is utter perfection—gorgeous, golden-brown nuggets of soft-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside okra (source).
To fry okra, I like to cut it into small chunks, toss it in cornmeal, and fry it in a skillet with oil. When fried properly, the okra will brown and loose that “slime.”
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Okra as a Coffee Substitute
During the American Civil War, the importation of coffee was disrupted and Americans came up with a great substitute.
That substitute was okra.
Roasted okra seeds have been reported to have similiar qualities as coffee and are used as a coffee substitute for many people.
The okra seed coffee was acceptable with no caffeine, but with less intensity of characteristic coffee attributes. Okra seeds roasted at 160 °C was found to be the most similar to Java Arabica coffee, particularly in bitterness and sweetness (source).
Personally, I’m going to give this a try.
To make okra seed coffee, leave your okra pods on the stalk until they turn woody. Then, collect the seeds, roast them, grind them and use them in a French Press to make coffee.
Okra Taste, Slime and Uses
Okra has a unique taste that many Southerners enjoy. It’s quite similar to broccoli or eggplant. It’s great fried, skewered, grilled, boiled, charred, or sautéed.
You can get rid of “okra slime” by frying it or cooking it with acidic foods like tomatoes.
And, believe it or not, roasted okra seeds make a great coffee substitute!