Selection and Buying:
In my estimation, it is the little pods that are the best. Therefore, I
suggest buying small, bright green, unblemished pods that are firm and
crisp to the touch. The stem end should still be green, and the cap
should not show any sign of black. Avoid any pods that are spotty or
show signs of mold. If you are choosing larger okra for stewing or for
gumbos, a little darkening of the tips is okay, the whole okra will
darken slightly during long cooking.
There are several varieties of okra on the market. One is totally
smooth, one has small ridges running the length of the pod, one has
slight silvery gray fuzz, and one is even deep red, almost purple. All
are interchangeable - but the red variety turns dark green when cooked.
Frozen okra, widely available, is fine for use in stews and soups.
Canned okra is also available, sometimes combined with other vegetables
such as tomatoes, but I think canning only emphasizes the gelatinous
quality. Some commercial okra pickles are quite good, especially those
that are hot and spicy.
Okra can be found in the markets all year long, but small tender pods
are at their best from late June through August. You can buy fresh okra
during that period.
Count on 1/4 pound of fresh okra per person.