I have often found myself wondering if this vegetable is spelled Okra or Okro. Both are correct but in most scientific texts and dictionaries, the Okra is often used. Other names for Okra include Ladies’ fingers, gumbo, Ila, Kubewa, Olewele, Quibombo,Bamia, Ochro.
I particularly like the name Ladies’ fingers because it aptly describes the fruit vegetable. Okra is a very slender, long and delicate fruit of the Okra plant which belongs to the Hibiscus specie and Mallow family. There are some dwarf varieties of Okra too. It is often green in colour and after harvesting can become fibrous and tough after two days.
Okra is one of the oldest crops cultivated and the origins can be traced to Africa – Egypt in 1216 AD- even though it has been disputed. In Nigeria, Okra has become a very important vegetable – a staple vegetable. It is a mucilaginous (‘drawy’) vegetable that is quite affordable and used in preparing viscous soups eaten with stiff porridges ‘swallow’ like Garri, Amala, Fufu and So on. Okra fruit can eaten raw, cooked fresh or preserved by drying or dehydration and freezing. It can be baked, boiled, and fried. The leaves are also eaten in Nigeria.
In countries like the US, it is canned, frozen and also dehydrated as a powder. Dipping Okra in corn meal before frying is a specialty of theirs. For frozen Okra, it is best to cook them frozen than thawing them before cooking as this greatly reduces the Vitamin C content.
In 100g of Okra fruits, we have about 59kcal of energy, 2.71g of protein, 1.4g of fat, 7.91 carbohydrate and 1.95 fibre. The water content is very high and as such it is highly perishable. In terms of micronutrients it has moderate potassium, magnesium, iron, thiamine, folate contents while the sodium content is low. It is also a good source of Vitamin A and C. The seeds also contain unsaturated fatty acids – linoleic and Oleic acids.
Some research works show evidence that Okra seeds possess antioxidants and phenolic compounds that are beneficial in the prevention of chronic diseases. I see information dating as far back as 1935 telling us that Okra has been used as a substitute for coffee. The seeds in the pod are roasted and ground and brewed as coffee without caffeine.
Okra is a great vegetable to add to your meal time table. It is easy to prepare and takes a short time to cook. Overcooking of Okra would lead to a loss of water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C and the B Vitamins.
One myth about Okra is that pregnant women in some culture are not to eat it. This is very wrong information as okra does not affect the mother, pregnancy or the child physically, psychologically or anyway. Okra adds great nutrients to the meal of a pregnant woman who is eating for herself and her little one.
It is obvious that Okra has a rich and deep history in the world and it comes fully loaded with nutrients both to nourish and to heal. Don’t hesitate to purchase it more often. If you are worried about its longevity, you can put them in a Low density packaging materials – polyethylene – and refrigerate for up to 9 days.
- Nursal, S. Yucecan. 2000. Vitamin C losses in some frozen vegetables due to various cooking methods. Molecular Nutrition and Food research. Volume 44, Issue 6,Pages 451–453
- Babarinde G.O., Fabunmi O.A. 2009. Effects Of Packaging Materials And Storage Temperature On Quality Of Fresh Okra (Abelmoschus Esculentus) Fruit. Agricultura Tropica Et Subtropica, VOL. 42 (4).
- Doreddula, S. K., Bonam, S. R., Gaddam, D. P., Desu, B. S. R., Ramarao, N., & Pandy, V. (2014). Phytochemical Analysis, Antioxidant, Antistress, and Nootropic Activities of Aqueous and Methanolic Seed Extracts of Ladies Finger (Abelmoschus esculentus) in Mice. The Scientific World Journal, 2014, 519848.
- Habtamu Fekadu Gemede, Negussie Ratta, Gulelat Desse Haki, Ashagrie Z. Woldegiorgis, and Fekadu Beyene. 2015. Nutritional quality and health benefits of okra (Abelmoschus esculentus): A Review. Pakistan Journal of Food Sciences (2015), Volume 25, Issue 1, Page(s): 16-25