Okra is a plant that produces an edible pod that is eaten as a vegetable. It originated in Africa, perhaps Ethiopia, and was brought to the Americas with the slave trade. The pods are green, have a ridged skin, and generally a narrow, tapering shape, although some can be almost round. (Pods longer than about 4 inches are likely to be tough and fibrous). In cooking, okra exudes a gummy fluid that often thickens whatever dish it’s in.

Okra is most popular in the south in the United States, and is available year-round there. Fresh, it is available in the rest of the country generally from May to October. It is also available canned, frozen, and dried.

Okra is best known as being an ingredient in southern gumbos, where both its flavor and thickening qualities are appreciated. Okra can be prepared in many ways, though – sautéed, stewed, braised, and baked.