The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

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.

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