Okra...it's a staple of the south and it's my husband's biggest crop. Aaron has 40 some-odd acres that he farms and about 30 acres of it is just okra.
(One of our fields)
(Okra blooms look almost like hibiscus, so pretty)
My dad grew up farming cotton and my Memaw tells me they never made a dime until they started farming okra. It's terribly itchy and horrible to pick. I did it ONCE and was itching from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes on every square inch of my body,but it sure is good! I grew up in a small town and my dad owned grocery stores that I worked as a cashier in. Many customers, around the same age as my dad would say " When I was a boy I would pick okra for "Wad Gilbert." "Wad" pronounced "Wod" is what my grandma would call my grandpa whose name was actually Wallace.
Collin County cantaloupe are also pretty famous in our small town. My dad is growing the sweetest cantaloupe around right now!
(Dad and Aaron after picking a truckload)
We have black dirt that our okra thrives in with no irrigation. We rely on rain and do much praying in the heat of our 107 degree Texas summers. Okra is a dry weather plant that actually doesn't need much rain to thrive and loves the heat. My husband was smart when he picked our main crop knowing we had no irrigation. When studying okra's background, my husband learned that coincidentally enough okra originated from Ethiopia and Egypt, although I think our son is the only Ethiopian that actually eats okra or knows what it is. Okra is also a huge staple in India. They call it "bhindi" and it is also wildly popular in many Asian culutres. I bought okra frozen one year in the winter and it was HORRIBLE compared to what we are use to. It was big and tough had end pieces mixed in and we didn't end up eating it. A lot of times when it finally makes it to the grocery store in the fresh section it has already turned black in some spots on it. A lot of times stores will package their okra in little plastic containers, but okra actually heats up easy and needs air. Our okra is hand-picked daily and is so green and super tender. My children eat it up raw!
Although some of you may be turning your nose up to the thought of eating "slimy okra" it's actually a super food, and it's not slimy unless you eat it boiled plain. It's low in saturated fat with about 30 calories per cup, and has no choleserol. It's low in sodium, high in calcium, high in dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese and niacin. It is very high in phosporus, potassium, thiamin, vitamin A, B6, C and Zinc. So if you live up north or in an area where you only can find the frozen okra or the breaded kind at your nearby cracker barrel. I am sorry. You are just out of luck with getting the really good stuff, but if you live near us, I know where you can get your hands on some super fresh all natural, pesticide/chemical-free okra that you will love. Or go to your nearest farmer's market or neighborhood market that supports local farmers and you may find some there.
You can find our okra in any United Supermarket in Texas or at our local weekend fruit stand in Rockwall.
(Old poster of our family before Josiah days that still hangs in United Supermarkets)
We should get an updated one with our boy now!
TEXAS FRIED OKRA : ( I never fry accept in the summer and it is just because fried okra and squash is a must in the Texas summer)
*I am sorry I never measure, just toss to your liking
~Wash okra and slice up as much as you want to to cook up, removing ends, and put in a bowl.
~Toss evenly with a mixture of white cornmeal a little bit of flour and salt and pepper to taste. (note: do not dip in milk or eggs before. It's sticky enough on it's own unless you want it battered
~ Add cooking oil to the bottom of frying pan. (a generous amount to cover the bottom but not for your okra to be swimming in it) and heat it up.
~Once oil is heated add the cornmeal coated okra, put heat on low and cover with lid. Flip over with spatula every once in a while to make sure you are cooking it all evenly. Once the okra is cooked until softened, turn your heat up to medium/high, take lid off and brown it up. Pour onto a paper towel to drain excess oil. Eat up, and enjoy! We like it with Ketcup ;)
* You can also do the same thing and chop up potatoes, summer squash, onion, green tomatoes and add to the okra, toss it the same with cornmeal and cook it the same, and you got some Texas jambalaya as I like to call it! SO ridiculously delicious!
(My husband's plate at dinner...fried okra, fresh tomatoes, fresh beats, cantaloupe, purple hull peas, and oven baked, fake fried chicken bites...my kid's favoite)
OKRA GUMBO (easy peasy and my children love it!) (sorry again about measurements)
*You have some meat choices here, but ALWAYS add the bacon. You can either cook it with just bacon, or you can do bacon and boiled chicken, or smoked sausage, or all 3 together, which is super great!
Let's just pretend we are doing all 3 here! you can either boil the gumbo on top of your stove or leave in your crockpot all day. I do both.
You will need :
~1-2 large yellow sweet onions diced up (I personally think the onions make it good)
~smoked sausage cut up
~chicken breast boiled and cut up
~1-1b bacon fried and crumbled, (save some greese to the side)
~a large amount of okra cut up ( I would guess 1 1/2 to 2 lbs or fill up your largest pot or crockpot nearly half- full of okra cut up)
~1 large can plus 1 small can of stewed, diced tomatoes, or peel and boil in fresh tomatoes as well. I probably use 8-10 fresh tomatoes when using fresh.
~Salt and pepper to taste
~1 tbls of better than bouillion chicken flavoring (it's a paste in a jar on your soup aisle) (optional)
*throw all in a large pot and cover with water, and add 2-3 tbls of the bacon greese. This gives it great flavor.
Simmer on low stirring ocassionally until okra and onions are tender I would guess about an hour or cook on low for 6-8 hours in your crockpot). Serve with hot buttered cornbread and enjoy!