Southerners are used to being ribbed for our drawls and y’alls, fried food and how many first names we have. There’s an element of truth there or the stereotypes wouldn’t stick. We’re rightly famous for our fried food (seriously, is there anything that can’t be fried?), “Co-Colas” and Moon Pies. Now, hang onto your seat because that most Southern delicacy, OKRA, is now a SUPERFOOD!
You could be forgiven for not knowing how many really good, really nutritious foods are “Southern”, even if you’ve never ventured north of the Mason-Dixon Line or west of the Mississippi. That includes a few that now number among the so-called superfoods. Long before it was fashionable to put kale in EVERYTHING, Southerners were eating and enjoying kale and collards and lots of other nutritious, dark green, leafies. We also consume mass quantities of beans, tomatoes and sweet potatoes (all superfoods). And, just today, I’m reading about the newest superfood on the list–OKRA. This is truly good news about one of our summertime staples! Not only is okra a great source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, calcium and anti-oxidants; new research is showing that the lectin and pectin in okra are potential cancer fighters–specifically breast and prostate cancer as well as melanoma.
If your taste buds haven’t been introduced to okra, you’re missing something special. Growing up, I thought there were only two ways to cook it: boiled (an acquired taste) and fried (delicious, but not so nutritious). Actually, okra is exceptionally easy to prepare and can be served with near infinite variety as a stand alone veggie and in soups, stews and gumbo. Checkit! Apparently “gumbo” is Swahili for okra. My favorite “quick prep” is to toss whole pods with a small amount of olive oil and light seasoning and grill them. For a quick main dish, stir fry okra with grape tomatoes and shrimp in a little olive oil and serve over black rice. Go Creole with a gumbo or try a West African Okra Peanut Stew . You can’t go wrong. If you’re feeling decadent and want to “go native”, try this incredible recipe for Smashed and Fried Okra.
A superfood and a SUPER FOOD, that’s Okra! Y’all come back now, ya hear?