Slime and its uses
What is that gooey stuff and why can’t I wash it off?
The sticky substance that oozes from chopped okra is called mucilage, and is thought to serve as the plant’s food and water storage system. Which makes sense, given that water (hot or cold or even laced with vinegar) will not dissolve the goo. In fact, water makes the slippery fluid swell and ooze even more. Many cooks rinse the pods and pat them dry before slicing to minimize the release of fluids.
If you’ve never been slimed by fresh okra, and you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, try this simple experiment at home: Slice a few fresh okra pods into 1-inch rings and place in a mixing bowl. Cover the slices with water and set aside. Come back in about 20 or so minutes and stick your hands into the bowl and run your fingers through the okra slices.
So what can you do with a bowl of slippery okra slices? Make some fried okra. Pour the okra slices into a strainer, and swish and shake the strainer until most of the viscous fluid flows through. Then toss in seasoned cornmeal and flour (see recipe on Page D5). No need to dip the okra slices in milk or eggs. The sticky okra juice creates a natural adhesive for the cornmeal coating.
Okra mucilage won’t wash off, but it makes a great base for cornmeal.