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Okra is a vegetable that is used in cuisines in many parts of the world including Greece, India, the Caribbean and in the southern states of USA. Okra is a member of the hibiscus family and the edible portion closely resembles the pod of the tropical hibiscus flower.

Good okra must be fresh and small, preferably less than 6 cm long much bigger than this and they become tough, fibrous and indigestible. Because okra is the flower head on the plant, it has a relatively  high respiration rate and comparatively short shelf-life.  It is best bought in small quantities, and used quickly. 

Okra is a good source of vitamin A, less of vitamin C and is also useful in supplying calcium and phosphorous.  By itself okra is rather bland, so it is often combined with a variety of  other ingredients, such as fish, meat and other vegetables in soups and stews. Even when raw, the pods have a rather sticky feel and they become very gelatinous when cooked, supplying bulk and thickening to dishes. 

Okra can be boiled, baked or fried, whether left whole or cut into rings. It is often combined with tomatoes as in American 'gumbo' or in Mediterranean dishes  which are similar to ratatouille, in India okra is used in curries. 

Okra can be cooked in microwave whole with a small amount of butter, or three-five minutes plus 1 or 2 minutes standing time, or sliced with a small volume of water, for a smaller period.

If you are freezing okra for later use, it should be first blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Do not trim it beforehand or the gelatinous contents will escape.  



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