The south, where I live,is certainly not without its eccentricities. Today I would like to share one with you that is to some degree funny and yet also sort of divisive. To properly set this up I need to tell you a story about my younger days.
Thanks, in large part, to my grandparents on my father’s side I was a regular salad eater. It was also common in the late seventies and throughout the eighties for restaurants to have large and varied all you can eat salad bars. There are some still around today but not as many. It was at one such salad bar that I was introduced to a marvel of a food.
I love dill cucumber pickles, always have but I had never ever even heard of pickled anything else. Now as an adult I know that there are many delicious varieties of pickles. Always the adventurous eater I tried the pickled okra and I have been hooked ever since. People either love it or hate it. Okra and I have a more complicated relationship. My head tells me that I don’t like okra—I find it slimy and strange. But if you present me with a jar of pickled okra, I’ll eat it—happily and greedily.
Now, for those of you that might not know, okra is a member of the mallow family, related to cotton and hibiscus. Okra is found on the banks of the Nile and the Egyptians are generally regarded as the first to cultivate it. Okra is an annual, cultivated for its edible green seed pod. The seed pods are long, usually with ribs down its length. These tender, unripe seed pods are used as a vegetable and have a unique texture and bittersweet flavor. The same clear goop that flows through aloe vera leaves, known as mucilage, is also found in okra pods. Made of sugar residues called exopolysacharrides and proteins called glycoproteins, mucilage’s viscosity increases when heat is applied. This is good for thickening dishes, but bad if you’re trying to sauté sliced okra as a side.
So,if you like to be adventurous with your food choices I strongly suggest that you go out and try some pickled okra!