Well, it’s summer, so you just gotta expect to find some mention of okra on a South Florida gardening blog! There are a lot of crops we’ve tried growing in the heat of summer over the years, from long beans to loofah (for real!), to bitter melon and cowpeas and various summer “spinaches,” among others. None of those are particular favorites, so we don’t put much effort into them any more. Or with certain crops that we do like, such as cowpeas and sweet potatoes, the insects they’ve attracted in our hot summers (i.e. aphids and whiteflies) make them just not worth growing.
But one of the crops that remain a constant for us in the summer is okra – we just can’t skip planting it! It’s one of the easiest summer crops to grow in our climate – just plant it, water at the seedling stage, and then pretty much ignore it (our summer rains take care of its ongoing watering needs). You do have to beware of nematodes as okra tends to attract them, so you want to take care to treat for these organisms properly and not spread them around the garden.
About eight weeks after planting, it’s time to start harvesting the few that are ready each day. Save up the pods over several days and then you can get going in the kitchen! I basically have three go-to okra recipes I use on a rotating basis. Two of them are already posted here: Okra & Tomato Stew and Roasted Okra. So the third one is best known as “dry okra” – there’s no sauce and pleasantly, there’s no slime! The secret to this is sautéing the okra at a fairly high heat. It works!
This is a simple recipe – easy prep and easy cooking. Dry okra is nicely flavored with Indian spices, including amchur (aka mango powder), which has an unusual citrusy flavor. You can substitute lemon for it, but it’s worth getting amchur for the unique flavor. Zamouri Spices is my favorite place to buy Middle Eastern and unusual spices online, very fresh and high quality (and every so often they offer a 25% coupon via email when you’re on their mailing list.) By the way, keeping the spices in my freezer works really well, they last quite a long time.
My family and I really enjoy this okra dish. It’s a good accompaniment to other veggies and to meats or fish as well. The dry okra contrasts nicely with something saucy like curry or lentil dishes. If you’re not typically a lover of okra, you might want to give this one a chance! And if you already love okra, well, this s a refreshing take on it, so just enjoy!
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey, "Dry" Okra
Gently wipe or wash the okra pods and allow them to dry. Chop off the stem end of each one, then slice the pods crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat (I prefer cast iron for this dish - nonstick is fine too). Put the cumin seeds into the hot oil and allow to sizzle for a few seconds.
Add the onions to the pan, stir to blend with the cumin seeds, and fry for 3 minutes. Then add the okra and fry for about 8 minutes. Keep the ingredients spread out in the pan, and stir frequently. Don't worry if you start to see slime in the middle of the process - it will disappear as you keep frying and stirring.
Reduce the heat to medium and continue frying for 3 to 5 minutes. Test the okra to see that it has softened to a nice consistency - a little firm, not mushy.
Add all the remaining ingredients except the cilantro to the pan (salt, cumin, coriander, amchur or lemon juice, and cayenne) Stir gently and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Sprinkle the cilantro leaves over the top of the dish and serve.