When my stepfather sold part of the property he owned near the beautiful Niobrara River in Nebraska, the new owners were curious about some of the plants my mother had left growing in the garden. They wondered if they might be “some kind of Oklahoma pepper.” My mom is an Okie, but the plants were not peppers, they were OKRA.
Here, once again directly from the pages of my Secrets from the Southern Living Test Kitchens book, is the definition of OKRA: “Slender green, fuzzy, fingerlike pods containing numerous small, edible seeds. Brought to the South by African slaves, okra is still popular in Southern cuisine: it’s an ingredient in many dishes, such as gumbo, but it can also be fried, steamed, or grilled as a vegetable. Okra has a mild flavor, but when cooked in liquid, it give off a viscous substance that thickens the liquid. Okra is at its peak during summer months, but it’s also available canned and frozen.”
Thankfully, even though I strayed a little from my own Oklahoma roots, God let me find an Okie to marry so we could engage in lively debates over the best way to prepare OKRA. We both agree that steamed or boiled is just too slimy, but he prefers it dredged in cornmeal and fried in bacon drippings. I do agree it’s pretty hard to beat anything dredged in cornmeal and fried in bacon drippings, but I also love OKRA pickled. He won’t allow pickled OKRA within a country mile of his mouth.