In the U.S., okra is popular in the South, where it is a key ingredient in gumbo. It is also used in many Indian, Caribbean and African dishes, as it thrives in warm climates. These edible pods can be added to stews as a thickener, as they release starch when sliced, or lightly fried and tossed into salads. Because of its elongated shape, okra is also known as "ladies fingers." Okra was first brought to the U.S. by African slaves.
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Spinach has a slightly slimy texture when it's cooked, a little like okra; therefore, if it's the texture you're attempting to re-create, choose this or the Vietnamese variety of spinach, sold at Asian grocery stores. Spinach reduces in size dramatically during cooking.
Purslane, also known by the unflattering name "pigweed," has juicy leaves filled with edible seeds, much like okra. Although it can be eaten raw in salads, when cooked, it can be used as a replacement for okra.
Okra's mild flavour and slightly slimy texture is similar to that of roasted aubergines, although bear in mind the latter can add a smoky taste to your dish.
Other Edible Pods
Okra flavour is similar to that of green beans, so substitute for French runner beans as well as other edible pods like mangetout and sugar snaps, however these two are somewhat sweeter in flavour. They're not suitable for slow-cooked stews, either, but are ideal for salads and stir-frys.
Okra is high in starch; if you need the vegetable purely to thicken up a soup or stew, substitute it with cornflour or normal flour. Alternatively, if you don't have flour on-hand, add another starchy vegetable like potato.
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