What's in Season

Ode to Okra

The South’s signature vegetable is ready for harvest

Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Think of okra as the South’s überveggie. You can eat it stewed, fried, grilled, baked, stuffed, smothered, curried, in succotash or gumbo. Customers at Bourbon House Seafood & Oyster Bar in New Orleans enjoy pickled okra alongside their po’boys. Texans use it to gussy up their dry martinis. Naturally, the drink is called the okratini.

While okra is sometimes shunned because of its “gooey” properties, experts know to simply cook it with acidic ingredients like tomatoes or drop it in a stir-fry to cut down on the veggie slime. But on the plus side, okra “goo” is said to ease indigestion by coating the stomach.

Okra grows best in heat and keeps producing tender pods well into October in the southernmost states. But it really thrives in a thirty-mile-wide crescent stretching from south-central Alabama to northwestern Mississippi, part of the Black Belt region so called for the color of its rich topsoil. Ask any resident what grows there besides okra, and he or she will tell you, “More okra.” Which is good news for Southern chefs and foodies.