Yes, It is official! I am an okra fanatic. We have 40 okra plants at the Garland Community Garden and I planted 25 of them. Here are some facts about Okra in Texas:
1. Even though the onion is our state vegetable, if I were queen, I would assign that honor to Okra for many reasons, not the least of which is because okra is far more nutritious than the onion. But onions clearly make more money than Okra. According to Aggie horticulture, ONIONS are Texas' leading vegetable crop. Onion sales bring the state between $70 and $100 million per year and the onion industry has an overall impact of about $350 million per year on the Texas economy. Most of the sweet yellow onions, which people all over the world enjoy because you can "eat them like an apple", can trace their origin to the Lone Star state.
However if nutrition and not profit are to be the guidelines, Okra wins hands down and it’s much easier to grow than onions or tomatoes.
2. Every part of the Okra plant is edible--the leaves, flowers and the pods of the Okra plant. If you want to derive full nutritional value from almost any vegetable, eat it raw. Now picture this at your next Texas barbecue: You serve them a green salad made with okra leaves, chopped okra pods and garnished with okra flowers.
3. Okra can be eaten raw, fried, or boiled. It can easily be preserved by slicing and freezing.
Admittedly, getting a Texan to eat a raw okra pod might have a difficulty level approaching that of trying to get a Baptist to genuflect but it can be done as I’m living proof that a real Texan can be convinced to eat a raw okra pod. I did and they are delicious--crunchy and good. I also tried an okra leaf today and they are at least as tasty as lettuce. I have yet to devour a blossom but that adventure will come soon. There is just something about eating a flower that seems dangerously close to being a cannibal.
4. Okra produces well and even thrives in poor soil and even under drought conditions. You don’t have to baby it. You don’t need a vegetable garden to grow it. You can grow it in 5-gallon pots. It’s OK if you forget to water it for days in a row. It’s OK if you forget to cut it for a few days as you can dry out the too-large-to-eat fibrous pods and paint them for Christmas ornaments. Okra is the most forgiving vegetable that I know.