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Virginia Farm Flavors: Meet Okra Winfrey

Okra may very well be one of the most glamorous crops we have here on the farm. This diva of a vegetable grows so tall that I (a person who measures 5’3” on a good day) have to pull it down almost in half to meet me where I am, all to pluck a few beautiful and tender pods off the main stalk. Okra grows in a spiral formation out of a beautiful hibiscus-like flower and is actually related to ornamental flowering hibiscus plants. So really, we’re just getting the best of both worlds: beauty and food. Many parts of the okra plant can actually be used for food, even though we mostly stick just to the pod in a lot of American cuisines. But however you slice it or dice it, okra actually has substantial nutritional benefits including high fiber content, as well as B vitamins, magnesium, and folate!

When you break open a raw okra pod you’ll likely find round little seeds popping out along with a cool, juicy interior. This is just another example of how plants are magic and they know exactly what we need when we need it. This somewhat liquidy part of the plant is soothing, and just like its cousin, the marshmallow root, this aspect of okra has been found to be highly anti-inflammatory, as well as rich in antioxidants and cooling in the summer sun. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, plants like okra help cool the blood and clear inflammation, phlegm, and infectious conditions. Okra has also been found to be particularly high in antioxidant activity, which has been shown to fight free-radical damage as well as improve cardiovascular damage, coronary heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and digestive disorders.