Slime and its uses

Austin American-Statesman - - FOOD & LIFE -

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.

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