Leafing through a seed catalogue is one of life’s great pleasures. Burpless cucumbers (with almost no warts) compete for your attention against yellow tomatoes, purple carrots and popcorn maize. No matter how hard you try to be practical, and only buy what you like to eat, occasional “impulse-buys” slip their way into your order. This summer I couldn’t resist the urge to buy okra seeds.
Okra is a star-shaped green vegetable that is famous for its slightly gluey texture which allows it to be used as a thickener. It features in Mediterranean cooking as well as gumbo and curries.
As seedlings, okra plants look similar to beans, but don’t be misled. The plants have big leaves, and grow up to be as tall as sunflowers. They bear fruit at almost every leaf junction, following beautiful yellow flowers that are reminiscent of hibiscus.
Don’t be put off by the idea of okra being gluey, because you can reduce that tendency by picking the okra while they are still young. The seeds are smaller at the early stages too. Diced okra that has been well fried isn’t really gluey at all.
Okra with tomatoes and eggplant make a pleasant sauce to serve with pasta. The recipe below uses a combination of summer crops, which you may have growing together, or that are cheap and plentiful at your greengrocer at the same time of year. Since this is a vegetarian dish, it’s nice to add chickpeas for protein, and serve it sprinkled with fetta.
Okra with eggplant and tomatoes
1. Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until transparent. Next, add the sliced okra and fry until it begins to brown.
2. Add the other vegetables, eggplant, tomatoes and chickpeas. Also add the tomato paste and basil. Cook until vegetables have softened.
3. Serve over pasta, and sprinkle with fetta cheese.