Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus, alsoHibiscus esculentus) is also known as lady’s fingers. The term “okra” may be of Niger-Congo origin, then in the late 18th century, the term “okra” was already used in English.
Okra is of the cotton family like all the Mallow relatives. The tasty green seed pod is a viable crop in warm climates since it is an annual tropical plant, but it may reach six feet in height. It looks like a leaf but is formed like a heart, and the flower consists of massive, hibiscus-like flowers. The pods have a somewhat gritty texture and a delicious but not quite ripe flavor. The fluid released from cut pods hardens to a viscous, gelatinous substance and is often used to thicken stews and provide a delicious eggplant-like flavor.
Okra was first grown by the ancient Egyptians in the 12th century B.C. The food crop spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East in the later stages of its evolution. While seeds were roasted and toasted, they were crushed and used as a coffee substitute. Additionally, the seeds were eaten as a seed meal.
Okra, which is native to West Africa, made its way to the Caribbean and the U.S. in the 1700s and Europe. Okra has historically been a cooking staple for Louisiana slaves and is now a prominent component in Creole gumbo. Okra appears in Cajun, Creole, and southern American cuisines since it came to the United States in the South. This species is often found in the South of the United States, where it is rare to see frost.
More recently, American consumers have shown more interest in ethnic cuisines, leading to the return of these delicate, bright green pods as a vegetable in the U.S. They are also used more often in their function as a thickener rather than just as a vegetable.