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Okra is an "Old World" vegetable. The exact place of origin is still matter of debate. Over the centuries, many cultures have embraced okra and used it to create traditional dishes. Mediterranean and African recipes combined with tomatoes a new world fruit were created after the Columbian Exchange.
Okra was introduced to the New World by African slaves. This vegetable is still a favorite in the American south. General overview with picture here. Africa is the source of the name It is first recorded in English at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
The mucilaginous pods, like miniature pentagonal green bananas, are an essential ingredient in, and thickener of, soups and stews in countries where they are grown Other names of the polynomial okra include in English speaking countries lady's fingers, in India bhindi, and in the eastern Mediterranean and Arab countries bamies.
It is the only member of the mallow family Okra is generally regarded as native to Africa, and may have been first cultivated either in the vicinity of Ethiopia or in W. It is not known when it spread from Ethiopia to N. Mediterranean, Arabia, and India.
There is not trace of it in early Egyptian tombs, but it was recorded as growing beside the Nile in the 13th century. Its westward migration to the New World seems to have been a result of the traffic in slaves. Okra reached Brazil by and Dutch Guiana by It may also have arrived in the south of the USA during the 17th century, and was being grown as far north as Virginia and Philadelphia in the 18th century.
The spread of okra eastwards from India as slow. Its appearance in SE Asia may be assigned to the 19th century, and it arrived in China soon therafter Okra is only moderately popular in Europe It is used much more extensively in the Middle East and India, as a vegetable.
According to legend, okra was introduced to in southeastern North America by the "Cassette Girls" young French women who landed at Mobile in in search of husbands. They had with them okra that had been obtained from slaves in the West Indies, and which they used to invent "gumbo," which is a soup or stew thickened with okra.
Okra has played a major role in the cuisines of ex-slave societies in the Americas, where it continues to be popular. It is also cultivated in Africa and East and South Asia.
Cambridge]Volume Two p. The black-eye pea, so popular in the South today, was introduced in this fashion in ; there were others--okra and w watermelon, for instance--but it is in the nature of things that we have no precise dates for their arrival.
New York] p. Okra was brought to America by African slaves, who used it in stews and soups and cut it up as a vegetable. The most famous use for okra is in Louisiana gumbo. Slaves grew okra in gardens on southern plantations and introduced its cookery into mainstream America. Thomas Jefferson, in his Notes on the State of Virginiarecorded that okra was cultivated there.
The pod of the opkra is steamed, boiled, fried, pickled, and cooked in soups and stews, notably gumbo.
The seeds are also ground into meal for use in making bread oand oil. Southerners used ground okra seeds as a coffee substitute, especially during the Civil War The leaves and flower buds are also edible and are cooked as greens.
The pods and the leaves are dried, crushed into powder, and used for flavoring and thickening soups, including pepper pot, and stews. Although recipes for okra appear in early American cookery manuscripts, Thomas Cooper's edition of the Domestic Encyclopedia includes the first publsihed reicpe with okra as an ingredient.
Mary Randolph's Virginia House-wife offers recipes using okra The word "gumbo" or "gombo" is another African name for okra.Join Us Receive our popular Sonoma Historian Attend Special Events at Discount Help Preserve Historic Sonoma County.
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