The steamy days of summer are ideal for growing this unique-tasting fruit. Martha plants several kinds on her farm and harvests them in August.

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martha stewart standing outside holding basket of okra
Credit: Douglas Friedman

How would you like to be known as spineless? Mucilaginous? Slimy? Viscous? Those are common adjectives used to describe one of my favorite summer harvests: okra, also called okro or lady's-fingers. This fruit, a staple in regions including West Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, South America, and the southern United States, is unusually healthful-a good source of fiber, minerals, and vitamins-and is easy to prepare in many different ways to render it delectable to almost everyone.

Okra thrives in warm or hot temperatures and is simple to grow; the plants, part of the mallow family, are quite productive once they get established in the garden. In late May or early June, I plant varieties like 'Clemson Spineless', 'Burgundy', and 'Jambalaya.' The fruit itself is the edible green, reddish-purple, or yellowish seedpod. Best harvested when about three inches in length and youngish, okra is tender and tasty, and can be cooked whole, or sliced lengthwise or crosswise into wheels.  

When cut, the pods emit a viscous "slime," which can be rendered more palatable by adding an acidic ingredient, like tomatoes or vinegar, to the recipe. When fried, they crunch up and are delicious; when stewed, they are smooth and unctuous; and when pickled, well, they are downright picklish.

I hope you try these three amazing recipes, which I perfected one day with our food director, Sarah Carey. My personal favorite is the braised okra served with polenta, which is also extraordinary over pasta or rice.

spiced fried okra served with lime wedges
Credit: Douglas Friedman

Spiced Fried Okra

Martha flavors her light batter for Spiced Fried Okra with a warm, woodsy spice blend of thyme, paprika, oregano, and coriander, which adds a citrusy aroma.

braised okra with roasted garlic and tomato served with parmigiano-reggiano
Credit: Douglas Friedman

Braised Okra with Roasted Garlic and Tomato

Martha likes to serve Braised Okra with Roasted Garlic and Tomato over soft polenta, but it also makes a delicious side dish.

dilly pickled okra served with fried chicken
Credit: Douglas Friedman

Dilly Pickled Okra

Choose small, thin okra for pickling. They are usually the most tender and have small seeds. Martha's favorite way to serve her Dilly Pickled Okra is with chef Sara Foster's grandmother's Sunday fried chicken.

Makeup by Daisy Toye.

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