Okra is a flowering plant in the same family as cotton and hibiscus. Its name originates from an African language, the plant originating in the Ethiopian highlands. Although the manner in which it was distributed throughout the world is undocumented, there is evidence that okra was being enjoyed by the Moors and the Egyptians as early as the 12th century. From there, the plant spread along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as eastward.
Okra eventually made its way to North America in the 18th century, with the first documented growing of okra taking place in 1748 as far north as Philadelphia. By 1800, okra became a common food throughout the United States. Okra is eaten as a vegetable, and there is also a lot of nutrition to be gained from working it into your diet.
Okra is a good source of Vitamin C and unsaturated fats and is a decent source of protein, calcium and magnesium. It is also a good source of carbohydrates for those who cannot get their carbohydrates from other foods because of blood sugar problems. Okra is also high in dietary fiber.
Throughout the Middle East, okra is popularly used in a thick stew made with vegetables and meat. Indian cooking uses okra in addition to gravy-based preparations in order to flavor other foods. In the Caribbean, okra is sliced and made into a stew to be eaten with fish. Haitians use okra with rice and maize and are also known to prepare it as a sauce for meats.
In the United States, Okra is commonly served raw. It's also cooked alone (deep fried, stir-fried, broiled or boiled) or in combination with other vegetables. Here's a unique recipe for okra muffins.
1. Combine cornmeal, sugar and salt in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine milk, lightly beaten eggs and sauces.
2. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients, stirring until well moistened. Fold in diced okra and onions.
3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease muffin pans and place them in the oven for 5 minutes. Spoon batter into prepared pans to 2/3 full.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans immediately and serve warm.
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