By Joe Buckley
One of my favorite dishes is okra. This vegetable is abundant at The Pass Market. It is a little late this year due to some cool weather early in the spring. Okra is a semi tropical plant that is popular around the world. The origins of the plant are disputed. Some say that it came from west Africa while others maintain that India and even south Asia are the birthplaces of this plant. No matter what the origin, okra quickly spread around the world and is enjoyed in almost every culture from the Philippines to Egypt.
The Dutch and French name for okra is “gumbo”. Now that has a familiar ring to it doesn’t it. Most of us prefer our seafood gumbo to have an okra base.
I have heard that okra came to America as seeds braided in the hair of slaves in the early 1800’s. It was a grown as far north as Philadelphia, though the greatest concentration of it was in the southeast.
Okra is best known for its “mucilaginous” or slime. This is an important part of okra. It provides the thickening for the dishes that we enjoy from it.
The seeds can be roasted and ground as a decaffeinated coffee substitute. In fact, okra seeds were the main coffee substitute used during the American Civil War in the south.
Recipes from around the world use okra as a base. Sliced and fried, sautéed, stewed, or boiled, the lists are extensive. This relative of cotton, cocoa, and hibiscus is truly a culinary super vegetable.
Not only are there different kinds of okra plants and pods, but there are different uses for each. Keep the gumbo warm!
Other Market news:
The Pass Market Wednesday, our all food market in the new pavilion on Davis Avenue, will have its last market for this season on Wednesday, September 24. Opening for the next season will be announced at a later date.
On Saturday, October 11, The Pass Market in War Memorial Park, will be closed due to Cruisin’ the Coast. This decision was made due to concerns of traffic congestion, numerous road closures around the park, and safety for the vendors and market patrons. Thank you for your patience and we will see you all the following Saturday morning in the park.