This year we planted mostly Clemson spineless along with a little bit of Alabama Red. The red okra is my favorite of all the okras types I have tried. Big fat, tender pods that could double as Christmas ornaments, if Christmas was in August.
Being the damned Yankee that I am, I had never eaten okra until I moved South. The first few times I ate it down here, I found it truly disgusting because of the slime factor. Since we started striving for sustainability, I had to learn to like okra, because it has so many uses on a homestead. The pods can be eaten fresh, dehydrated or frozen. The seeds in the pods can be dried and used like a pea, or dried, roasted and used as a replacement for coffee. Okra can also be used as a thickener in some dishes, either in vegetable form or dried and powdered. The critters all love okra pods and plants too so there is no waste in growing a lot of okra.
I have learned over time that the secret to okra is in the choosing when to harvest, the handling and cooking of it. Okra is best at about 3-4 inches in length. If you let it grow larger, it gets tough and tastes like shoe leather. Pick okra the day you plan on using it, if you must store it in the fridge, rinse it off, pat dry and put in a bowl. Always handle and cut okra with dry hands and on a dry surface, the slime is nasty if you don't.
Many people believe that okra is only good in gumbo, or coated with batter and deep fried. While I too believed this for several years, those are my least favorite ways to eat okra these days. Very small pods, left whole, are excellent in stir fries or steamed. The seeds after dehydration, are very good in soups, stews, and rice dishes, and are a great way to use the okra that got away. The "coffee" is my favorite coffee substitute. My favorite dish for okra is blackened okra. It is flash cooked, very good and can be served with most any main dish or served over rice as a main dish.
1lb okra (sliced in half down the middle)
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion (sliced or diced)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 tsp paprika
dash cayenne or fresh hot pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
In large frying pan or wok, heat butter until hot and starting to turn brown. Add all ingredients and fry for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, add salt and serve hot.