Monday, August 1, 2011

Okra, Okra, Okra

Okra Jungle

Once upon a time, I hated okra. It was just a disgustingly slimy or disgustingly hairy textured vegetable. I know, I'm Southern, how can I not love okra? Embarassing but true. But, this embarassing problem has now been remedied! I can honestly say that I love fried okra, okra in tomatoes, and best of all, pickled okra! Lesson learned: don't assume you still dislike something as tastebuds do change. Or, perhaps the lesson learned is: one's own home-grown okra tastes way better than that grown somewhere else. Either way, I'm glad I was open to try growing and eating this veggie!

This tastebud change is very timely because we have okra coming out of our ears! Every other crop has failed miserably this year. But, not the okra. It has enjoyed the excessive heat and humidity and grown into an okra jungle.  Oh, you think I jest? Au contaire, I jest not! It is a jungle out there! Look! A person could get lost in there! 

Okra blossom

Sunflower Jungle seen from
with Okra Jungle

Despite the itchy affect of touching the okra plants, harvesting does come with some simple pleasures. I get to enjoy the pretty okra flowers. I also get to listen to and occasionally have a tete-a-tete with a few of my gardening helpers. I got a picture of the okra flower but unfortunately the green treefrog and itty bitty gecko were not willing to pose for a picture. There were also some bugs which I suspect were not "helpers" but since the frogs and lizards were on the job, I focused on harvesting.

Fortunately, I did not encounter any snakes. Copperheads have been very stubborn and refusing to acknowledge the eviction notices we've served over and over again. They just don't seem to be willing to relocate. One had the audacity to bite my cocker spaniel, Tanner, on the hip while he was minding his own business in the dogyard last week. It was sentenced to death by beheading. Oh, and Tanner is fine. He slept it off and was back on guard duty a few hours later.

If you have ever harvested okra, you know the itching we endure when harvesting in this jungle! Wading through the jungle in search of the okra pods is quite a challenge and pods get missed no matter how careful I am.

But, we are finding different uses for the different sizes of pods. The small and medium sized okra pods are used for pickling or frying. The medium to large-but-still-tender pods are used in canning tomatoes-and-okra. The large-no-longer-tender pods are blanched and frozen to be used in the dogs' food. They don't mind the slime. Dogs are gross. But, I love them anyway.

Lacto-fermented okra

Tomato Relishs

Today, I picked a basket full of okra and green tomatoes (and a small amount of red tomatoes). Mother and I processed these into jars of pickled okra and tomato relishes. The pickled okra are vinegar pickled and then water bath processed. I have also lacto-fermented a batch of okra and those pickles are amazing. The fermented okra pickles are not processed as that would kill the beneficial bacteria. 

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