This year I grew okra for the first time.
It was an experimental change from store-bought to growing my own. I use okra mainly for gumbo and after this gardening season I have plenty sliced and in the freezer.
Okra is easy to grow and the plant produces for a long time. I now understand why so many people, especially those with limited financial resources, use it as a basic vegetable.
It’s not the most popular vegetable in Iowa.
I acquired the seeds at the home, farm and auto supply store in a batch of end of season packets left in a cart in the employee break room. If the seeds hadn’t been free, I would not likely have grown the vegetable. The excess pods produce plenty of seeds for next year. If I grow it again, I’ll plant just a few of them.
The reason I make gumbo at all is from watching cooking shows on public television, then on Food Network. Justin Wilson and Emeril Lagasse were most influential, but neither of them uses okra in the gumbo recipes at the links. Here is the recipe I developed after a number of years of exposure to these chefs.
Paul’s Vegetarian Gumbo
Make a roux with four tablespoons each unsalted butter and all purpose flour. Cook to the blonde stage.
Cook 10 ounces vegetarian sausage, sliced on the bias, separately in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Drain and reserve.
Add one cup each diced celery, onion and bell pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add finely chopped garlic to taste (Use spring garlic when available). Add a thinly sliced hot pepper if you have one from the garden (Serrano and Jalapeno are my favorites).
Add one quart of vegetable broth, one pint of diced tomatoes and one cup sliced okra. Bring it to a boil and turn down the heat.
Season with 1 teaspoon curry powder, ground red pepper, or cayenne. Add prepared hot sauce to taste.
Add one cup chopped fresh parsley plus the sausage and heat thoroughly until the broth thickens.
Serve on its own or with rice.