Although I am a fan of okra this is the first year that we have ever grown it in our garden. Since we moved into our house about 11 years ago and met our friend who everyone affectionately called “the farmer” we have always had a steady supply of the most delicious okra in the summer. “The farmer”, Johnny Knox actually did not live in our neighborhood but was constantly on our street visiting friends and family. He had a farm in Upper Marlboro and grew loads of delicious vegetables that he shared with us. When we had our restaurant he would supply us with large quantities of various vegetables and amazing cooking greens. He continued to share the same quantities after we closed our restaurant. Our friends often benefited from his productive garden as we would share his large harvests.
Johnny Knox passed away last year at 90 plus years of age. This year we planted okra for the first time. We chose a red variety that has been delicious, productive and beautiful. Not only have we been rewarded with a plentiful crop of fresh okra but the flower that blooms before you actually get the okra is astonishing. We planted the okra from seed in early June and started getting okra about a month ago. It will now be an every year garden crop for us.
Often when we cook okra people say, “the okra was delicious and generally I do not eat okra.” I think there were two things differentiate this okra. One is the freshness, it is not necessary to grow your own, this time of year just picked okra is available at farmers markets. The other thing that is unique is we often roast it in a pan over the stove or in the oven at a high temperature. Personally I like okra roasted or boiled. However boiled okra has a sticky consistency while roasted okra is not at all sticky and has a fresher brighter taste.
Tonight we were all hungry without too much food in the refrigerator and were happy to find about a dozen okras ready to be picked. We incorporated them into a stir fry with a beet, an eggplant and calaloo that we seasoned with garlic and ginger and served over some black rice dressed with sesame seeds and sesame oil.