Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Last Summer Meal

Okra & tomatoes, rainbow chard, steamed broccoli, cheese grits, speckled trout, and black beans

Seattle is good at providing gray skies and cold weather crops, but trying to grow tomatoes and corn can make a gardener crazy! Trying to grow okra in the Northwest is simply unheard! Do you even know what okra is?

Luckily, I am from Louisiana, and most of my family still lives there. Each and every time my parents come for a visit they bring 50 pounds (airline weight limit) of food that is unavailable in the Emerald city. On a recent trip to Seattle, my mother came with her usual ice chest full to the brim of delicious southern ingredients. I opened the red igloo, and along side the venison and pre-oil Gulf Redfish, I found a 2 gallon bag full of fresh picked okra. Okra is notorious for being a slimy green vegetable, but let me tell you, when it's prepared well, nothing says "perfect summer day" better. Okra can be a crunchy un-slippery vegetable if it is sautéed quickly, on high heat; you get all the crunch and flavor without the slurp. The pairing of okra and tomatoes is a classic combination and a great introduction to this heat loving vegetable.

As I look at the window to the spitting rain and 50 degree temperature, I'm grateful to have ended the season on such a perfect meal.
I was also delighted to discover that Alvarez Farms at the Columbia City or Ballard Farmers Market often sells okra that they grow on the east side of the Cascades. Hurry to the Farmer's Market in Columbia City and try it for yourself!

Okra and Tomatoes

The classic way to eat okra. With each chop the green hairy pods will turn into green and white seedy stars and you too will begin your affinity for the odd slippery vegetable.

Serves 4

2 T olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 jalepeno, diced

1 pound okra, chopped into 1/2" slices

1 ½ cups fresh tomatoes, chopped (or canned stewed tomatoes)

½ cup basil, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add a pinch of salt and saute a few seconds more. Add pepper and stir about 1 minute. Add the okra and sauté on high until the okra is tender and bright, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer until the tomatoes are slightly broken down and heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

While okra's best value is the ability to feed the soul and stir up nostalgia of hot summer days and the smell fresh cut fields, it's actually quite good for you. It
is rich in vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, zinc, iron and fiber. Since iron is better absorbed with the help of vitamin C, tomatoes makes a great nutritional compliment. It is also full of amino acids, including tryptophan, which help to ensure a great night sleep.


  1. Okra without the slurp? Come on ... can't be true. While your dish looks tasty, okra might be one of the few or only veggie that I avoid ... it was that bowl of okra soup in Nigeria that did me in ... didn't know what it was ... just knew that I had to eat it for fear of offending my host ... meanwhile all I could think of was snot soup as my friend sat there and made snorting sounds. Traumatizing.

  2. This okra recipe is awesome. I made it last Sunday for dinner guests and we ate it all up. The addition of the basil makes it even better!


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