Saturday, 14 April 2012

How You can Eat a variety of Fruits and Vegtables Everyday - Health - Nutrition

Vegetable of the Month: Okra

Okra grows in an elongated, lantern shape vegetable. It is a fuzzy, green colored, and ribbed pod that is approximately 2-7 inches in length. This vegetable is more famously known by its rows of tiny seeds and slimy or sticky texture when cut open. Okra is also known as bamia, bindi, bhindi, lady's finger, and gumbo, is a member of the cotton (Mallow) family.

Okra was discovered around Ethiopia during the 12th century B.C. and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians. This vegetable soon flourished throughout North Africa and the Middle East where the seed pods were consumed cooked and the seeds toasted, ground, and served as a coffee substitute. With the advent of the slave trade, it eventually came to North America and is now commonly grown in the southern United States. Youll now see okra in African, Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Caribbean, and South American cuisines.

Okra is commonly associated in Southern, Creole, and Cajun cooking since it was initially introduced into the United States in its southern region. It grows well in the southern United States where there is little frost.

Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. It is a good source of vitamin C. It is low in calories and is fat-free.

OkraServing size 1/2 cup cooked, sliced (80g)Amounts Per Serving % Daily ValueCalories 20 Calories from Fat 0 0Total Fat 0g 0%Saturated Fat 0g 0%Sodium 0mg 0%Cholesterol 0mg 0%Total Carbohydrate 4g 1% Dietary Fiber 2g 7% Sugars 1g Protein 1g Vitamin A 4%Vitamin C 20%Calcium 6%Iron 2%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.


Clemson variety is dark green with angular pods. This okra takes less than two months to mature.

Emerald type is dark green, with smooth round pods.

Lee is a spineless type known by its deep bright green, very straight angular pods.

Annie Oakley is a hybrid, spineless kind of okra with bright green, angular pods. It takes less than two months from seeding to maturity.

Chinese okra is a dark green type grown in California and reaches 10 to 13 inches in length. These extra-long okra pods are sometimes called "ladyfingers."

Purple Okra a rare variety you may see at peak times. There is a version grown for its leaves that resemble sorrel in New Guinea.

Availability, Selection, and Storage

Okra is available year-round, with a peak season during the summer months. It is available either frozen or fresh. When buying fresh okra, make sure that you select dry, firm, okra. They should be medium to dark green in color and blemish-free. Fresh okra should be used the same day that it was purchased or stored paper bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Severe cold temperatures will speed up okra decay. Do not wash the okra pods until ready to use, or it will become slimy.


When preparing, remember that the more it is cut, the slimier it will become. Its various uses allow for okra to be added to many different recipes. Okra is commonly used as a thicken agent in soups and stews because of its sticky core. However, okra may also be steamed, boiled, pickled, sauted, or stir-fried whole. Okra is a sensitive vegetable and should not be cooked in pans made of iron, copper or brass since the chemical properties turns okra black.

Young Versus Mature Okra - What is the difference?

Photo of okraMost okra pods are ready to be harvested in less than two months of planting. If the okra is going be consumed, then these pods must be harvested when they are very young. They are usually picked when they are two to three inches long, or tender stage.

Okra pods grow quickly from the tender to tough stage. Pods are considered mature when they exceed three inches in length. Mature okra is tough and is not recommended for use in certain recipes.

How do I reduce okra slime?

Most people who have eaten or have cooked okra, know about the okra slime. Some recipes call for the whole okra, but how do you deal with the okra slime?

There are few ways to minimize the slime:

* Simply trim the off the ends and avoid puncturing the okra capsule. * You can also minimize the slime factor by avoiding the tendency to overcook okra.

Photo of okra ready to be harvestedRecipes

Okra and Green BeansMakes 6 servings

Source: University of Illinois Extension


1 lb okra, uncut 1 Tbsp olive oil 1 medium onion, diced 1 lb fresh green beans 2 large garlic cloves, crushed then chopped 1 cup water tsp salt tsp ground pepper 1 6-ounce can tomato paste

Wash okra pods, trim stems, do not remove caps. Rinse well and drain. Wash beans and cut into 3 inch lengths. Combine water, tomato paste, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in a sauce pan and mix well. Heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to boil. Add okra and beans and additional water if necessary to almost cover vegetables.Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently until vegetables are crisp-tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve it warm or cold.

*This dish can also be oven-baked. Instead of simmering, lightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350F.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 106, Protein 5g, Fat 3g, Calories From Fat 19%, Cholesterol 0mg, Carbohydrates 19g, Fiber 7g, Sodium 187mg.

I hope everyone can incorporate this healthy veggie in a fun and healthful way! Enjoy!

By, Natalie Pyles

Health & Fitness Expert, Nutrition Specialist, Author, NSA Speaker

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