by Christine Baker
Summer’s in full swing here in the deep south, a most treasured time of year, despite the challenges of living in a semi-tropical climate. It reminds me of a caged mouse that runs on a rolling wheel, day after day, no longer from desire or boredom, but from familiarity and a sense of home. For better or for worse, my Louisiana is my home, even with all its incessant mosquitoes and wasps, high summer temperatures, extreme humidity, and extreme summer rains.
I guess I can say the same about okra, too. Yes, you read that right, “okra,” the vegetable people either love or love to hate. Some can’t live with it. Others can’t live without it. I’m of the latter kind. I grew up with okra cooked in various ways. It was and still is, one of my favorite summer vegetables. It’s comforting, delicious, and home to me.
My Dad was my supplier for most of my life. I was well into my forties before I ever had to buy a bag of okra at the grocers. It wasn’t long after he died when my husband and I picked up stakes and moved to another part of this state known as the sportsman’s paradise. And wouldn’t you just know it? My elder neighbor across the street, who lives on about ten beautiful, grassy, wooded acres, grew okra every summer.
We got to know each other right away. In fact, I’ve fried his okra many times and saved him a little dish and walked it over so he could indulge while it was still piping hot.
As I look out across the street from the place I call home, I see my neighbor’s garden plot now stands empty. It’s been many years since any okra plants have been planted and grown during the summer months. Yes, he’s still alive, but aged and lives alone as all his close family have died. We check on him every once in a while and he reminisces about growing another garden and planting you guessed it, okra.
This year, my hubby and I felt a need. We wanted some okra of our own. Yes, we know we could go down to the local farmer’s market or grocer and purchase some. America and the state of Louisiana are blessed like that with an abundance at their fingertips. But we wanted something different. We wanted Louisiana sweat to drop from our brow. We wanted Louisiana dirt under our fingertips. We wanted the satisfaction of the seed to the plant to the harvest to the pot to the plate.
Our okra plants are growing and thriving thanks to the Louisiana summer rains. We’re cutting and washing and putting away okra just about every day now. I’ve cooked one little dish of smothered okra (recipe below) and anticipate enough in the near future for a batch to fry and you guessed it, walk across the street and share with my elder neighbor.
Good eating! Good loving! Good okra growing and sharing!
Avoir, Mes Amies!
One quart ziploc bag of cut okra
Tomatoes – fresh or stewed canned tomatoes (Rotel)
Chicken broth or water
Olive/vegetable oil/non-stick spray
Add a little bit of oil or use non-stick spray on the pot. Distribute evenly throughout. Add chopped onions and bell pepper, as little or as much as you like. Let fry for a minute. Add fresh or frozen okra. Add tomatoes, fresh or canned, as little or as much as you like. Add seasoning. Put the lid on and cook on medium heat for a few minutes. Add a little broth or water, if needed. Let simmer for about 45 minutes on low with top on. Stir occasionally. It’s cooked when the okra gets soft. Serve over rice or as a side vegetable.
P.S. I’m a local writer and author (Who Am I? 31 Days to Discovering Your Identity in Christ, found @ the Amazon Bookstore) who loves all things Louisiana, gardening and Jesus, although not necessarily in that order. You can connect with me on Facebook at Christine Vidrine Baker, From One Woman’s Heart to Another on Facebook and Instagram or at Chriskvbaker@gmail.com