Green okra has a torpedo-shaped pod ranging in length of five to six inches when harvested mature. The pods are pale lime to lime green color, their exterior has furrowed lengthwise grooves. The skin can often be fuzzy to prickly, which can cause an allergic reaction to sensitive skin. The flesh bears a tender spongy membrane with many small white seeds. Okra is known less for its lean flavor and more for its sticky sap that creates the flesh's gelatinous texture.
Green Okra is a member of the mallow family along with cotton, cocoa and hibiscus. The okra plant produces broad oak-shaped leaves with bold yellow and white hibiscus-like blossoms. The fruits sprout in vertical patterns from the plant's stems. The sign of a plant flowering indicates fruits will develop quickly within 3-5 days. Young fruits must be harvested daily as the fruits are known to grow so fast you can almost see them growing in front of your eyes. One plant can produce up to 100 okra. Okra left on the stem too long will become tough and essentially unfit for use. Okra is grown for fresh-eating but it also has many other purposes. Okra plants are grown commercially for pickling and canning alone or as a canned soup ingredient, while the seeds are also harvested for making oil and in some cultures are ground and used as a coffee substitute or supplement.
With okra, harvesting young tender fruits and knowledge of how to cook it are two key ingredients. Okra is historically not eaten alone, rather paired in a multitude of recipes alongside ingredients with bold, complex flavors and varying textures. Okra is most often used as a soup or stew ingredient, though its textures and flavors are truly enhanced when fried and grilled. Okra pairs well with basil, bacon, beet greens, butter, cream, garlic, ham, lemon, kale, onions, parsley, olive oil, pickled vegetables, chile peppers and peppercorns, paprika, tomatoes and turnips.
Okra is available year-round