#BlackHistoryEats / Day 09 / Okra

 Source: Russell Yip

Source: Russell Yip

HISTORY /

  • The tropical plant known in English as okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is also known as 'guilobo' (from Angoloa), 'okwuru' (from Igbo people), 'kanjo' (from Mandingo people), 'nkruman' (from Akan/West African people), and 'ladies fingers' (from India), 
  • It was first cultivated in Ethiopia around 12th century BC and traveled to the US and Caribbean via ensalved Africans during the slave trade
  • Okra is also related to cotton and mallow (Malvaceae) family plants 
  • But in also honestly, just read the brilliant Michael Twitty's oral history on okra

NUTRITION /

  • Okra is not only a great source of fiber but it is also very high in vitamin C which not only helps with fortifying the immune system but also assists with upper respiratory issues such as athsma
  • The okra mucilage (or what some consider 'slime') that can sadly give okra a bad rep, is made up of plant proteins and complex plant sugar and is used a thickener for gumbo soup in Louisiana
  • Okra is also rich in other vitamins like A, K and minerals such as iron and folate 

PREPARATION /

  • Okra can be cooked in a variety of ways, from being sautéed with onions and corn or fried with tomatoes or in cornmeal to being pickled and fermented, added to soups and stews, boiled down with a variety of greens or even added raw to salads 
  • Here's the link again to MIchael Twitty's okra soup
  • In the Divine wisdom and brilliance of our enslaved African ancestors, not only did they cook okra (pods) in a variety of ways but they made medicinal poultices out of okra (leaves)