Tenderize Giant Okra With These Cooking Methods

What to Do With Giant Okra Pods

Foot-Long Okra
Foot-Long Okra. Photo © Juliet Glass, used with permission

Bigger is not always better, especially when you're talking okra. As the okra season goes on, the okra pods get bigger. And, much like zucchini and other fruits and vegetables that get big, okra can get a bit woody and its tempting, delicate flavor can take on a bitter edge as the pods grow to giant-like proportions.

And yet... there are solutions to these problems. Or, rather, it is simply important to know, as always, what kind of fruit you're cooking to get the most from it.

While there is no guarantee okra's mild taste will come through in the giant variety, okra pods are best cooked one of two ways:

Slowly cook your overlarge okra into a gumbo or stew to soften their pod structure. Think Spicy Stewed Okra as an example. The key here is to cut the okra into bite-size pieces so the fruit (yes, okra technically is a fruit) is tender.

Slit the pods down the side and stuff them with a bit of cheese or spicy meat mixture (this Kheema is a good bet) and baked at 350°F to 375°F, covered, until everything is wonderfully tender, then continue cooking uncovered until your stuffed okra and add-ons are nicely brown. If the okra itself is bitter, slide your meat and cheese mixture onto your plate and discard the pods that surrounded the tasty mixture.

Really, though, okra is best when it's small and you're only hampered by a lack of versatility. You can eat it raw or cooked, stewed, grilled, pickled, or fried.

Put it in soups and stews, or season it and make a snack of it. It's all good, and good for you, too. Okra contains potassium, vitamin B, vitamin C, folic acid, and calcium. It's low in calories and high in fiber.

Wait Until Next Year

While your giant okra may not be edible this year, the seeds can be used to grow a new crop next season.

Leave the okra on the stalk until it dries out, then slice the shell and harvest the seeds. 

Decorating Tips

The distinctive shape of giant okra makes it ideal to create wreaths and Christmas ornaments. They start out the same way. Dry the okra, either on the stem or by spreading it out on a cookie sheet and placing it in a 150-degree oven for 6 to 10 hours. You want your okra thoroughly dried to prevent mildew

You can paint the okra, lacquer it or even leave it natural. Then let your imagination flow. Paint a Santa face on an okra pod, complete with flowing white beard. Or consider topping your tree with a star made from the okra pod.