Okra or Okro, known in many English-speaking countries as ladies' fingers, bhendi, bhindi, bamia, ochro or gumbo, is a flowering plant in the mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of West African, Ethiopian, and South Asian origins. The plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world
Okra, also known as “lady’s fingers” and “gumbo,” is a green flowering plant. Okra belongs to the same plant family as hibiscus and cotton. The term “okra” most commonly refers to the edible seedpods of the plant.
The name okra is most often used in the UK, United States and the Philippines, with a variant pronunciation in Caribbean English and Nigeria of okro. The word okra is from the Igbo The plant and its seed pods are also known as "lady's fingers". In various Bantu languages, okra is called (ki)ngombo or a variant, and this is possibly the origin of the name "gumbo", used in parts of the United States and the English-speaking Caribbean. In much of South Asia, it is called by some variant of bhindi, a name also heard in the United Kingdom, but English-speakers in Bengal call it dharosh.
The products of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic "goo" or slime when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains soluble fiber. Some people prefer to minimize the sliminess; keeping the pods intact, and brief cooking, for example stir-frying, help to achieve this. Cooking with acidic ingredients such as a few drops of lemon juice, tomatoes, or vinegar may also help. Alternatively, the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time so the mucilage dissolves, as in gumbo. The immature pods may be pickled.
Okra is a popular health food due to its high fiber, vitamin C, and folate content. Okra is also known for being high in antioxidants. Okra is also a good source of calcium and potassium.
Okra leaves may be cooked in a similar way to the greens of beets or dandelions. Since the entire plant is edible, the leaves are also eaten raw in salads. Okra seeds may be roasted and ground to form a caffeine-free substitute for coffee. When importation of coffee was disrupted by the American Civil War in 1861, the Austin State Gazette said, "An acre of okra will produce seed enough to furnish a plantation with coffee in every way equal to that imported from Rio."
Greenish-yellow edible okra oil is pressed from okra seeds; it has a pleasant taste and odor, and is high in unsaturated fats such as oleic acid and linoleic acid. The oil content of some varieties of the seed can be quite high, about 40%. Oil yields from okra crops are also high. At 794 kg/ha, the yield was exceeded only by that of sunflower oil in one trial. A 1920 study found that a sample contained 15% oil. A 2009 study found okra oil suitable for use as a biofuel.
Health Benefits of Okra
Okra has long been favored as a food for the health-conscious. It contains potassium, vitamin B, vitamin C, folic acid, and calcium. It’s low in calories and has a high dietary fiber content. Recently, a new benefit of including okra in your diet is being considered. Okra has been suggested to help manage blood sugar in cases of type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilize the blood sugar by curbing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.
There is evidence that the seed extracts of okra have an antioxidant, anti-stress effect in the bloodstream of mice. Managing stress levels is an important part of managing diabetes. Long-term, high stress levels can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Mental health should be a part of any diabetes treatment plan, and using okra and its derivative seeds can be a part of that plan.
Okra helps lubricate the large intestines due to its bulk laxative qualities. The okra fiber absorbs water and ensures bulk in stools. This helps prevent and improve constipation. Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra's mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic. Okra binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids). These, if not evacuated, will cause numerous health problems. Okra also assures easy passage out of waste from the body. Okra is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming, has no adverse side effects, is full of nutrients, and is economically within reach of most individuals unlike over-the-counter drugs.
Okra has been found to lower cholesterol levels in diabetic lab mice. Foods with high fiber content and antioxidant qualities are recommended for those with diabetes because they lower cholesterol. The American Heart Association points out that people with diabetes are more likely to have unhealthy cholesterol levels. When high cholesterol levels are combined with diabetes, the outlook is not good.
Okra fiber is excellent for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics). This contributes to the health of the intestinal tract.
Okra is good for summer heat treatment.
Okra is good for constipation.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Okra, and rich vitamin C content, curtail the development of asthma symptoms and prevent fatal attacks.
Those suffering from summer heat and sun strokes should include Okra in their diet. Relieves from weakness, exhaustion, and overall depression.
The high antioxidants and vitamin C content make Okra a good immune booster food. Other essential minerals like magnesium, manganese, calcium and iron fight against harmful free radicals and promote healthy immune system.
Iron, Folate, and Vitamin K aid in hemoglobin formation, blood coagulation, and red blood cells production, providing a supreme defense against anemia.
Okra increases sexual potency and is beneficial in treating genital disorders like syphilis, gonorrhoea, leucorrhoea, dysuria and excessive menstrual bleeding.
1⁄2 cup canola oil
12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chiles de árbol, chopped
1 small red onion, sliced
1 lb. okra, sliced ⅓" thick
1 1⁄2 tbsp. garam masala
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 plum tomato, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high. Cook garlic, chiles, and onion until golden, 4–6 minutes. Add okra, garam masala, coriander, tomato, salt, and ⅓ cup water; cook until okra is crisp-tender, 3–4 minutes.