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Okra: The Misunderstood Podadmin | April 15, 2010
Harvesting “love it or hate it” okra with Louisiana farmer Timmy Perilloux
The Perilloux vegetable farmers know that all good gumbo starts in the soil, with the planting of okra seeds. Following in his father’s footsteps, Timmy Perilloux’s been harvesting this heat-loving crop for over 33 years, using the same strain of seeds that’s been passed down through the generations. The fruits of his labor are snatched up every week at the Crescent City Farmers Market, by hungry New Orleanians eager to get their hands of these beautiful, ribbed pods.
Here is the South, okra is king: it’s cornmeal-coated and fried, stewed with tomatoes, and pickled with garlic and dill. But try singing okra’s praises to the many who can’t stand its slimy consistency; versatility is lost on that crowd. Okra is that most polarizing of vegetables: you either love it, or you hate it.
The chief offender? Okra’s “mucilage,” the gooey gunk that it exudes when cooked certain ways. But in New Orleans, it’s exactly this textural quality that allows okra to reign supreme as the heart of many a gumbo, serving as thickener par excellence. Okra slices are also awarded top billing alongside succulent oysters and sweet blue crabmeat chunks in a big pot of Creole Gumbo.
And in a city fiercely consumed by the “whose gumbo is best” debate, those who thicken with okra might just have an advantage: the word “gumbo” itself was derived from the African term “kingombo” which, in fact, means “okra.”
Still Photo credits: David Hagen, Paulette Phlipot
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