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These long, tapering, five-sided pods, also known as ladies’ fingers, have an elegant appearance but exude a most inelegant slime when cooked. Don’t be alarmed -it’s this sticky liquid that enriches American gumbo and Indian and Caribbean stews. Make sure the okra you buy are crisp and fresh, without any brown patches; they should keep for several days in a plastic bag in the fridge. Wash well, then trim the stalk end, being careful not to expose the seeds. Some recipes recommend salting okra in acidulated water before cooking but I have never found this necessary.