Written onMay 27 , 2015
Although we farm in Vermont, one of our favorite vegetables to grow, and especially to eat, is a staple from the South: okra. On our farm in Shaftsbury, where we grow between 25 and 30 acres of veggies and small fruits—everything from asparagus to… well, yes… zucchini—it’s the letter O in which one of our true vegetable passions rests. Okra!
We only plant 300 to 400 okra plants each year. Not only is the yield per plant low for the amount of space we need for it (a plant will yield one okra pod every couple of days), okra is also very labor intensive to pick for the amount of pods we get. On the rare occasion when we offer the harvest for sale in our farm stand, it flies off the shelf, but we also save a portion of the crop for ourselves and we covet every last pod! The flower is also very beautiful, okra being in the hibiscus family.
There are so many different ways to eat okra. It can be chopped into ¼-inch rounds and then dipped in egg, rolled in cornmeal, and fried in olive oil. Or you can steam it or stew it with tomatoes. One of our “go-to” okra recipes to prepare in September (when we have a little more time) is a vegetable “gumbo.” We sauté onions and garlic, then add okra, zucchini, tomatoes, hot pepper, and sometimes eggplant. We season this with fresh basil, parsley, and oregano. Make a big batch and, after eating your fill, freeze the rest up for some mid-winter veggie therapy!
There are other ways to preserve okra for the winter. Perhaps our favorite way is to pickle it. For those who are wary of the “slime factor” in eating okra, pickling eliminates this and makes a super crunchy, high-protein pickle snack. You can use any cucumber pickle recipe and just substitute okra for cucumbers. They are sublime.
Watch out kale, okra is the next big thing in the vegetable world!
This is the 21st season that Andrew Knafel and Anne Hunter have been farming. They run Clear Brook Farm in Shaftsbury and sell vegetables at the Londonderry and Manchester farmers’ markets, as well as at their farm stand. They also offer a winter CSA and a summer CSA. For more info: clearbrookfarm.com or 802-442-4273.