Abelmoschus esculentus and Hibiscus esculentus

Appears in

By Elizabeth Schneider

Published 2001

  • About

Also gumbo, gombo, ochro, lady’s fingers and others

Including red okra

Succulent and mellow, with subtle suggestions of eggplant, artichoke, and asparagus, okra does not seem a likely object of controversy. Yet exclamations of alarm or adoration erupt at the mere mention of this provocative pod, for a simple reason— its undeniable, un-American sliminess. Consequently, almost anyone writing on the subject in the United States hastens to reassure the reader that the unseemly slitheriness will be eliminated when okra is either soaked in vinegar (or water), fried (or boiled), cooked quickly (or forever), etc. Not so. The clear, sweetish, viscous, light slick that okra exudes belongs and will not vanish. It will always be present to some degree—and it is luscious to those who fancy it.