Many of the plants that have been tagged ‘super foods’ have been around for yonks. This is good that their potential and value for a whole range of uses is being understood and eaten by the truckload.
The American south cuisine has included plenty of interesting dietary specialities that include collards (large cabbage-like brassica in the same family as cabbage and broccoli). Kale is in the same realm of leafy vegetables that are high in vitamin C and has gained super food status for its immune system boosters among plenty of other pluses.
One other plant that needs to be considered on the super food list could be okra – another of the American south greens.
One thing about okra (Ablemoschus esculentus) or ‘lady fingers’, it will grow in our climate probably better than kale or collards will (of course there are exceptions like the cooler parts of the Tablelands).
Gumbo is a cajun dish of the Creoles and Africans, who used the vegetable to thicken what could be either a seafood broth with plenty of shrimp and shellfish or a meat-based soup/ casserole with sausage, meat or maybe squirrel. But central to whatever gumbo takes your fancy, is okra. It’s the mucilage that thickens the dish.
Strangely, for as easy it is to grow, it has never been a major player as one of our ‘greens’ but maybe that is about to change.
Start plants from seeds (buy a handful at a market for seed stock) and push them into damp peat moss.
The seedlings will be up in no time and plant the young shrubs in well-composted soil with plenty of organic matter and drainage. The shrub will grow to about 2m. Prune the plant at 1m tall to encourage side shooting and more fruit, which follows the pretty white/pale yellow flowers. If you are stretched for space, one okra plant will live happily for about a year or so in a large tub in a corner, balcony or patio that gets a reasonable amount of sun each day. Fertilising with seaweed or liquid foods is good and produces abundant crops of long green angular fingers of fruit that can also be pickled and curried.
Pick the okra fruit when they are young for the best and tastiest results.
Leaving them too long on the bush makes then tough and less palatable.
Okra has plenty of good qualities as a green with low GI and is a good source of antioxidants, magnesium and fibre.
Other Ablemoschus include aibika (A.manihot), the islander form of PNG spinach green that were once classified like okra as a member of the hibiscus family. Another contender for super food star treatment.