Botan­i­cal notes

Austin American-Statesman - - FOOD & LIFE -

Okra is in the mal­low plant fam­ily, which also in­cludes the weedy marsh mal­low, whose roots con­tain an okra-like mu­cilage that was once whipped with sugar and eggs to make marsh­mal­lows. Is it just me, or does know­ing this make you want to run into the kitchen and whip up some­thing sweet and gooey us­ing okra juice? Sweet Potato Pie with Puffy Okra Mu­cilage? (The name prob­a­bly needs a lit­tle more work.)

Okra is also a cousin to the hibis­cus plant, which will not sur­prise you if you’ve ever seen an okra plant in bloom. The flow­ers (usu­ally in shades of yel­low with ma­roon cen­ters) are big and bold and quite pop­u­lar with honey bees. The fo­liage is also at­trac­tive and would make a strik­ing ad­di­tion to an ed­i­ble land­scape. Es­pe­cially beau­ti­ful are the deep bur­gundy va­ri­eties. And one more plus to the okra plant? It’s one of the most drought-tol­er­ant veg­eta­bles you can grow in your home gar­den.

Re­nee Stude­baker

Okra’s fun for arts and crafts, too. Just slice it open, dip into paint and stamp away.

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