Okra

Okra

Overview
Okra is a flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

 in the mallow family
Malvaceae
Malvaceae, or the mallow family, is a family of flowering plants containing over 200 genera with close to 2,300 species. Judd & al. Well known members of this family include okra, jute and cacao...

. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of South Asian, Ethiopian and West African origins. The plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world.

The name "okra" is most often used in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, with a variation of the pronunciation–English Caribbean ("okro")– used primarily around the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

.
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Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Okra is a flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

 in the mallow family
Malvaceae
Malvaceae, or the mallow family, is a family of flowering plants containing over 200 genera with close to 2,300 species. Judd & al. Well known members of this family include okra, jute and cacao...

. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of South Asian, Ethiopian and West African origins. The plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world.

Vernacular names


The name "okra" is most often used in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, with a variation of the pronunciation–English Caribbean ("okro")– used primarily around the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

. "Okra" is of West African origin and is cognate with in the Igbo language
Igbo language
Igbo , or Igbo proper, is a native language of the Igbo people, an ethnic group primarily located in southeastern Nigeria. There are approximately 20 million speakers that are mostly in Nigeria and are primarily of Igbo descent. Igbo is a national language of Nigeria. It is written in the Latin...

 spoken in Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

. Okra is often known as "lady's fingers" outside of the United States, with Singapore being on of the countries and regions. In Persian it is called "Bamiyeh". In various Bantu languages
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

, okra is called kingombo or a variant thereof, and this is the origin of its name in Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 (quiabo), Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 (quimbombó or guigambó), Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, and also of the name "gumbo", used in parts of the United States and English-speaking Caribbean for either the vegetable, or a stew based on it
Gumbo
Gumbo is a stew or soup that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century. It consists primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and the vegetable holy trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onions...

. In India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, and often in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, it is called by its Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

/Urdu
Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

 name, bhindi or bhendi. In southern India, it is known as vendaikkai(வெண்டைக்காய்) in Tamil, benda Kaya in Telugu, bandakka in Sinhala, and bende kayi in Kannada. In Thailand, it is known as กระเจี๊ยบมอญ krachiap mon, which is Thai for "lady's fingers". It is known as bamya (bamiya) in Arabic-speaking countries. In South and Southeast Europe, it is known as bamya (bamija). In Romania, it is known as bamă. In Albania, it is known as bamje. In Israel, it is called bamia.
It is called molondrón in the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean, Spanish-speaking country, and ñajú in Panama.

Structure and physiology


The species is an annual
Annual plant
An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season. True annuals will only live longer than a year if they are prevented from setting seed...

 or perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

, growing to 2 m tall. It is related to such species as cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

, cocoa, and hibiscus
Hibiscus
Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae. It is quite large, containing several hundred species that are native to warm-temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world...

. The leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 are 10–20 cm long and broad, palmately lobed with 5–7 lobes. The flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s are 4–8 cm in diameter, with five white to yellow petals, often with a red or purple spot at the base of each petal. The fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 is a capsule up to 18 cm long, containing numerous seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s.

Abelmoschus esculentus is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous fruits or pods containing round, white seeds. It is among the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetable species in the world—but severe frost can damage the pods—and will tolerate poor soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

s with heavy clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 and intermittent moisture.

In cultivation, the seeds are soaked overnight prior to planting to a depth of 1–2 cm. Germination
Germination
Germination is the process in which a plant or fungus emerges from a seed or spore, respectively, and begins growth. The most common example of germination is the sprouting of a seedling from a seed of an angiosperm or gymnosperm. However the growth of a sporeling from a spore, for example the...

 occurs between six days (soaked seeds) and three weeks. Seedlings require ample water. The seed pods rapidly become fibrous and woody and must be harvested within a week of the fruit being pollinated to be edible. The fruits are harvested when immature and eaten as a vegetable
Vegetable
The noun vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant....

.

Origin and distribution


Okra is an allopolyploid of uncertain parentage (proposed parents include Abelmoschus ficulneus
Abelmoschus ficulneus
Abelmoschus ficulneus is a species of flowering plant in the genus Abelmoschus, family Malvaceae. Commonly known as White Wild Musk Mallow or Native Rosella, it is fibrous perennial with a woody stem...

, A. tuberculatus and a reported "diploid" form of okra). Truly wild, as opposed to naturalised, populations, are not definitely known, and the species may be a cultigen
Cultigen
A cultigen is a plant that has been deliberately altered or selected by humans; it is the result of artificial selection. These "man-made" or anthropogenic plants are, for the most part, plants of commerce that are used in horticulture, agriculture and forestry...

.

The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of South Asian, Ethiopian and West African origins. Supporters of a South Asian origin point to the presence of its proposed parents in that region. Opposed to this is the lack of a word for okra in the ancient languages of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, suggesting it arrived there in the Common Era
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

. Supporters of a West African origin point to the greater diversity of okra in that region; however, confusion between okra and A. caillei
Abelmoschus caillei
Abelmoschus caillei, the West African okra, is a plant species in the family Malvaceae. It occurs in West and Central Africa, where it is used as a vegetable. It originated as an allopolyploid hybrid of Abelmoschus esculentus and A. manihot. The same hybrid was produced experimentally in Japan...

(West African okra) casts doubt on those analyses.

The Egyptians
Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

 and Moors
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 of the 12th and 13th centuries used the Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 word for the plant, bamay, suggesting it had come from the east. The plant may have entered southwest Asia across the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 or the Bab-el-Mandeb
Bab-el-Mandeb
The Bab-el-Mandeb meaning "Gate of Grief" in Arabic , is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, Djibouti and Eritrea, north of Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, and connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden...

 strait to the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

, rather than north across the Sahara
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

, or from India. One of the earliest accounts is by a Spanish Moor who visited Egypt in 1216, who described the plant under cultivation by the locals who ate the tender, young pods with meal
Flour
Flour is a powder which is made by grinding cereal grains, other seeds or roots . It is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for many cultures, making the availability of adequate supplies of flour a major economic and political issue at various times throughout history...

.

From Arabia, the plant spread around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 and eastward. The plant was introduced to the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 by ships plying the Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade
The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the trans-atlantic slave trade, refers to the trade in slaves that took place across the Atlantic ocean from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries...

 by 1658, when its presence was recorded in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

. It was further documented in Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

 in 1686.

Okra is also largely used in the rural rain forests of Papua New Guinea. It is used well with the other staple food of sweet potatoes and rice.

Okra may have been introduced to southeastern North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 in the early 18th century. It was being grown as far north as Philadelphia by 1748. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 noted it was well established in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 by 1781. It was commonplace throughout the Southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 by 1800, and the first mention of different cultivar
Cultivar
A cultivar'Cultivar has two meanings as explained under Formal definition. When used in reference to a taxon, the word does not apply to an individual plant but to all those plants sharing the unique characteristics that define the cultivar. is a plant or group of plants selected for desirable...

s was in 1806.

Culinary use




The products of the plant are mucilaginous
Mucilage
Mucilage is a thick, gluey substance produced by most plants and some microorganisms. It is a polar glycoprotein and an exopolysaccharide.It occurs in various parts of nearly all classes of plant, usually in relatively small percentages, and is frequently associated with other substances, such as...

, resulting in the characteristic "goo" or slime when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains a usable form of soluble fiber. Some people cook okra this way, others prefer to minimize 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 help. Alternatively, the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time so the mucilage dissolves, as in gumbo
Gumbo
Gumbo is a stew or soup that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century. It consists primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and the vegetable holy trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onions...

. The cooked leaves can also be used as a powerful soup thickener. The immature pods may also be pickled.

In Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, and Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

, and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 and Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, okra is widely used in a thick stew made with vegetables and meat. In most of West Asia, okra is known as bamia or bamya. West Asian cuisine usually uses young okra pods, usually cooked whole. In India, the harvesting is done at a later stage, when the pods and seeds are larger.

It is popular in Indian
Indian cuisine
Indian cuisine consists of thousands of regional cuisines which date back thousands of years. The dishes of India are characterised by the extensive use of various Indian spices, herbs, vegetables and fruit. Indian cuisine is also known for the widespread practice of vegetarianism in Indian society...

 and Pakistani cuisine, where chopped pieces are stir-fried with spices, pickled, salted or added to gravy-based preparations such as bhindi ghosht and sambar. In western parts of India (Gujarat, Maharashtra
Gujarati cuisine
Gujarati cuisine refers to the cuisine of the Gujaratis from India, who are predominant in western India. It is primarily a vegetarian cuisine, despite having an extensive coastline for sea food, due influence of Jain vegetarianism and traditional Hinduism...

), okra is often stir-fried with some sugar. Okra is also used in Kadhi.

In Malaysia okra is commonly a part of yong tau foo
Yong tau foo
Yong tau foo is a Chinese soup dish with Hakka origins commonly found in China, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. There are also Teochew and Hokkien variations....

cuisine, typically stuffed with processed fish paste (surimi
Surimi
Surimi is a Japanese loan word referring to a fish-based food product that has been pulverized to a thick paste and has the property of a dense and rubbery food item when cooked...

) and boiled with a selection of vegetables and tofu
Tofu
is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is part of East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and others. There are many different varieties of tofu, including fresh tofu and tofu...

, and served in a soup with noodles.


In the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 islands, okra is eaten in soup, often with fish. In Haiti
Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

, it is cooked with rice and maize, and also used as a sauce for meat. In Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, it is called quimbombó, along with a stew using okra as its primary ingredient.

It became a popular vegetable in Japanese cuisine
Japanese cuisine
Japanese cuisine has developed over the centuries as a result of many political and social changes throughout Japan. The cuisine eventually changed with the advent of the Medieval age which ushered in a shedding of elitism with the age of shogun rule...

 toward the end of the 20th century, served with soy sauce
Soy sauce
Soy sauce is a condiment produced by fermenting soybeans with Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae molds, along with water and salt...

 and katsuobushi
Katsuobushi
is the Japanese name for dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna .Shaved Katsuobushi and dried kelp - kombu - are the main ingredients of dashi, a broth that forms the basis of many soups and sauces in Japanese cuisine.Katsuobushi's distinct umami flavor comes from its high...

, or as tempura
Tempura
], is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried.-Batter:A light batter is made of cold water and soft wheat flour . Eggs, baking soda or baking powder, starch, oil, and/or spices may also be added...

.

Okra forms part of several regional "signature" dishes. Frango com quiabo (chicken with okra) is a Brazilian dish especially famous in the region of Minas Gerais
Minas Gerais
Minas Gerais is one of the 26 states of Brazil, of which it is the second most populous, the third richest, and the fourth largest in area. Minas Gerais is the Brazilian state with the largest number of Presidents of Brazil, the current one, Dilma Rousseff, being one of them. The capital is the...

. Gumbo
Gumbo
Gumbo is a stew or soup that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century. It consists primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and the vegetable holy trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onions...

, a hearty stew whose key ingredient is okra, is found throughout the Gulf Coast of the United States
Gulf Coast of the United States
The Gulf Coast of the United States, sometimes referred to as the Gulf South, South Coast, or 3rd Coast, comprises the coasts of American states that are on the Gulf of Mexico, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and are known as the Gulf States...

 and in the South Carolina Lowcountry
South Carolina Lowcountry
The Lowcountry is a geographic and cultural region located along South Carolina's coast. The region includes the South Carolina Sea Islands...

. Breaded, deep fried okra is eaten in the southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

. Okra is also an ingredient expected in callaloo
Callaloo
Callaloo is a popular Caribbean dish served in different variants in across the Caribbean. The main ingredient is a leaf vegetable, traditionally either amaranth , taro or Xanthosoma. Both are known by many names including callaloo, coco, tannia, bhaaji, or dasheen bush...

, a Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 dish and the national dish of Trinidad and Tobago. It is also a part of the national dish of Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

 coucou (turned cornmeal). Okra is also eaten in Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, where draw soup
Draw soup
Draw soup is a soup popular in Nigeria. It is made, typically, from okra or pumpkin seeds. It gets its name from the thick nature of the broth; it draws out of the bowl when eaten with a spoon, or more typically, when eaten by dipping a small piece of pounded yam into it...

 is a popular dish, often eaten with garri
Garri
Garri is a popular West African food made from cassava tubers. The spelling 'garri' is mainly used in Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and 'gari' in Ghana....

or cassava
Cassava
Cassava , also called yuca or manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates...

. In Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, okra is the important ingredient in the dish canh chua
Canh chua
Canh chua is a sour soup indigenous to the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. It is typically made with fish from the Mekong River Delta, pineapple, tomatoes , and bean sprouts, in a tamarind-flavored broth...

. Okra slices can also be added to ratatouille
Ratatouille
Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice. The full name of the dish is ratatouille niçoise.- Origin :...

.
Okra leaves may be cooked in a similar way to the greens of beet
Beet
The beet is a plant in the Chenopodiaceae family which is now included in Amaranthaceae family. It is best known in its numerous cultivated varieties, the most well known of which is the purple root vegetable known as the beetroot or garden beet...

s or dandelions. The leaves are also eaten raw in salads. Okra seeds may be roasted and ground to form a caffeine-free substitute for coffee
Coffee
Coffee is a brewed beverage with a dark,init brooo acidic flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, colloquially called coffee beans. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia,...

. When importation of coffee was disrupted by the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 in 1861, the Austin State Gazette said "An acre of okra will produce seed enough to furnish a plantation of fifty negro
Negro
The word Negro is used in the English-speaking world to refer to a person of black ancestry or appearance, whether of African descent or not...

es with coffee in every way equal to that imported from Rio
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

."

Greenish-yellow edible okra oil is pressed from okra seeds; it has a pleasant taste and odor, and is high in unsaturated fat
Unsaturated fat
An unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there is at least one double bond within the fatty acid chain. A fat molecule is monounsaturated if it contains one double bond, and polyunsaturated if it contains more than one double bond. Where double bonds are formed, hydrogen atoms are...

s such as oleic acid
Oleic acid
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in various animal and vegetable fats. It has the formula CH37CH=CH7COOH. It is an odorless, colourless oil, although commercial samples may be yellowish. The trans isomer of oleic acid is called elaidic acid...

 and linoleic acid
Linoleic acid
Linoleic acid is an unsaturated n-6 fatty acid. It is a colorless liquid at room temperature. In physiological literature, it has a lipid number of 18:2...

. 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
Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is the non-volatile oil expressed from sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as a frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient. Sunflower oil was first industrially produced in 1835 in the Russian Empire.- Composition :Sunflower oil is mainly a...

 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
Biofuel
Biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion, as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases...

.

Medicinal properties


Unspecified parts of the plant were reported in 1898 to possess diuretic
Diuretic
A diuretic provides a means of forced diuresis which elevates the rate of urination. There are several categories of diuretics. All diuretics increase the excretion of water from bodies, although each class does so in a distinct way.- Medical uses :...

 properties; this is cited (or simply stated) in many sources associated with herbal and traditional medicine.

Okra (and rhubarb, beets, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, tea, chocolate and soy products) are rich in oxalates; the Mayo clinic recommends that people who tend to form calcium oxalate kidney stones may benefit from restricting such foods.

See also

  • Abelmoschus caillei
    Abelmoschus caillei
    Abelmoschus caillei, the West African okra, is a plant species in the family Malvaceae. It occurs in West and Central Africa, where it is used as a vegetable. It originated as an allopolyploid hybrid of Abelmoschus esculentus and A. manihot. The same hybrid was produced experimentally in Japan...

    (West African okra)
  • Molokhiya, also called "bush okra"
  • Luffa
    Luffa
    The luffa, loofah, or lufah are tropical and subtropical vines comprising the genus Luffa, the only genus of the subtribe Luffinae of the plant family Cucurbitaceae...

    , also called "Chinese okra"

External links