Okra, Jamaican Okra and Jamaican Food Recipes.
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Okra Jamaican Food

Jamaican Okra And Jamaican Food Recipes

Jamaican okra (Hibiscus esculentus) also known as gumbo (Gumbo is Swahili for Jamaican okra), this is a tall-growing, warm-season, annual Jamaican vegetable from the same family as hollyhock, rose of Sharon and hibiscus. The immature Jamaican okra pods are used for soups, canning and stews or as a fried or boiled vegetable. The hibiscus like Jamaican okra flowers and upright Jamaican okra plant (3 to 6 feet or more in height) has ornamental value for backyard gardens. The latter scientific term is more often applied to soups or other dishes, which contain Jamaican okra. Both of these names are of African origin. "Gumbo" is believed to be a corruption of a Portuguese kind, quingombo, of the word quillobo, native name for the Jamaican okra plant in the Congo and Angola area of Africa. The Jamaican okra plant is grown in Jamaica island wide and is one of the most widely used Jamaican okra plants in many Jamaican recipes. Jamaican okra apparently originated in what the geobotanists call the Abyssinian center of origin of cultivated Jamaican okra plants, an area that includes present-day Ethiopia, the mountainous or plateau portion of Eritrea, and the eastern, higher part of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Considering the little contact between that region and the rest of the world within historic times, it is not surprising that little is known about the early history and distribution of Jamaican okra.

Since the Spanish Moors and the Egyptians of the 12th and 13th centuries used an Arab word for Jamaican okra, it probably was taken into Egypt by the Moslems from the East who conquered Egypt in the 7th century. It requires no stretch of the imagination to suppose that the Jamaican okra plant earlier was taken from Ethiopia to Arabia across the narrow Red Sea or the narrower strait at its southern end. From Arabia Jamaican okra was spread over North Africa, completely around the Mediterranean, and eastward. The absence of any ancient Indian names for it suggests that it reached India after the beginning of the Christian era. Because of the outstanding popularity of Jamaican okra in the Jamaican recipes and even in French cookery of Louisiana, and its slow gain in popularity elsewhere in this USA, it is safe to assume that the French colonists of Jamaica and Louisiana introduced it to this country in the early 1700's. Records of Jamaican okra during early Jamaican and American colonial times are lacking, although it must have been common among early French colonists.

As is true with a number of our less generally popular vegetables, many people fail to appreciate this one because they do not know how to use it. The first and commonest mistake that gardeners make is to let the Jamaican okra pods become too old and tough before harvesting them. They grow very fast, and in hot weather will become unfit for use in less than a week from the time they start developing from the pollinated flower. The Jamaican okra plants must be gone over at least every second day and the Jamaican okra pods harvested when only three to five days old. Jamaican okra is rarely used "straight" except when fried with meal, just a little of it usually being cooked with other Jamaican vegetables or put into Jamaican soups and Jamaican stews. Jamaican okra alone is generally considered too "gooey," or mucilaginous, to suit the Jamaican taste. In recent years, however, to Jamaican manufacturers it has become an important crop in certain tourist cities on the North Coast of Jamaica; Jamaican okra pods are grown for the large hotels to put in the soups they serve.

Jamaican okra is easily dried for later use. A little dried Jamaican okra in prepared dishes produces much the same results, as does the fresh product. In some lands the seeds rather than the whole young Jamaican okra pods are of most interest. When ripe the seeds yield edible oil that is the equal of many other cooking oils. In some countries, where edible oils are scarcer than in our country, Jamaican okra oil is no rarity. The ripe seeds of Jamaican okra are sometimes roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee. A close relative of Jamaican okra, roselle, is used as a source of fiber for cloth. In Guyana in the Caribbean, the leaves are used in preparing a medicament to soothe or reduce inflammation. When cut, Jamaican okra releases a sticky substance with thickening properties, useful for soups and stews. Gumbos, Brunswick stew, and pilaus are some well-known dishes, which commonly use Jamaican okra.

Jamaican okra can be served raw, marinated in salads or cooked on its own, and goes well with tomatoes, onions, corn, peppers, and eggJamaican okra plant. Whole, fresh Jamaican okra pods also make excellent pickles. Its subtle flavor can be compared to eggJamaican okra plant, though the texture is somewhat unusual. Many people prefer breaded and fried Jamaican okra, because the slippery substance is less pronounced. Because Jamaican okra seeds do not germinate well in cool soils, Jamaican okra plant seeds after the soil have warmed in the spring, probably a week to 10 days after the date of the last frost for your area. Jamaican okra is a warm season vegetable, which grows well in most Texas soils. For good yields, Jamaican okra must grow in full sunlight in a well-drained, fertile soil. Spade or turn the soil as deeply as possible. Jamaican okra will grow best in soil, which has been worked 8-10 inches deep. Remove rocks and trash, and rake the soil smooth. Work the soil only when it is dry enough not to stick to garden tools.

Sow seeds 1 inch deep in hills 12 to 24 inches apart. When the seedlings are 3 inches tall, thin all but the one strongest Jamaican okra plant per hill. The seeds may be soaked, wrapped in moist paper toweling or in water overnight, to accelerate germination. Before Jamaican okra planting, use 2-3 pounds of fertilizer such as 10-20-10 for each 100 square feet of garden area. Spread the fertilizer evenly over the area. Mix it well into the top 3-4 inches of soil.

For best yields, Jamaican okra plant Jamaican okra in the spring 2-3 weeks after all danger of frost has passed. For a good fall crop, Jamaican okra plant at least 3 months before the first fall frost. Jamaican okra plant Jamaican okra seed about 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart in the row. When the Jamaican okra is up and growing, thin the Jamaican okra plants so that they are about 1 foot apart. Jamaican okra will do fairly well under dry conditions. However, watering every 7-10 days will give higher yields. Sandy soils usually will need water more often than clay soils. Cultivate around the Jamaican okra plants to remove weeds and grass. Hand pull weeds close to the Jamaican okra plants to avoid damaging the roots of the Jamaican okra. After the first harvest, apply 1 cup of garden fertilizer for each 10 feet of row. Scatter the fertilizer evenly between the rows. Mix it lightly with the soil. Water the Jamaican okra plants after fertilizing. Jamaican okra usually grows well in any good garden soil. Shallow cultivation near the Jamaican okra plants keeps down weeds.

The Jamaican okra pods should be picked (usually cut) while they are tender and immature (2 to 3 inches long for most varieties). They must be picked often—at least every other day. Jamaican okra plants have short hairs that may irritate bare skin. Wear gloves and long sleeves to harvest Jamaican okra. Use pruning shears for clean cuts that do not harm the rest of the Jamaican okra plant. When the stem is difficult to cut, the Jamaican okra pod is probably too old to use. The large Jamaican okra pods rapidly become tough and woody. The Jamaican okra plants grow and bear until frost, which quickly blackens and kills them. Four or five Jamaican okra plants produce enough Jamaican okra for most families unless you wish to can or freeze some for winter use. The Jamaican okra will produce large Jamaican okra flowers about 2 months after Jamaican okra planting. The Jamaican okra pods will be ready to pick 3-4 days later. Harvest the Jamaican okra pods when they are 3-4 inches long. If the Jamaican okra gets too large, it will be tough and stringy. Pick the Jamaican okra every 1-2 day or yields will be decreased.

Jamaican okra is a fair source of Vitamin A. It can be eaten in many ways, including boiled, fried and cooked in soups, gumbos and casseroles. Jamaican okra can be stored for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Jamaican okra, which is too mature, can be dried, cured and used in flower arrangements. Jamaican okra seed is easily saved for next season by leaving some of the last Jamaican okra pods on the Jamaican okra plant until they get very large. Remove them and allow them to dry. The seeds will shell easily from the Jamaican okra pods. Other Jamaican okra plant material such as leaves and stems can be put in a compost pile. There are several insects that plague the Jamaican okra plants in Jamaica and worldwide.

Aphids—Watch for buildup of colonies of aphids on the undersides of the leaves.

Cabbageworms—Three species of cabbage worms (imported cabbage worms, cabbage loopers and diamond back moth worms) commonly attack the leaves and heads of cabbage and related cole crops. Imported cabbage worms are velvety green caterpillars. Gumbo is Swahili for Jamaican okra. The recent upsurge in the popularity of gumbo has also brought renewed attention to Jamaican okra. Jamaican okra was brought to the new world by African slaves during the slave trade. The Jamaican okra pods must be harvested when they are very young. Preferably two inches long although three inch Jamaican okra pods can also be salvaged. Harvest daily as the Jamaican okra pods go quickly from tender to tough with increased size. Refrigerate unwashed, dry Jamaican okra pods in the vegetable crisper, loosely wrapped in perforated plastic bags. Wet Jamaican okra pods will quickly mold and become slimy. Jamaican okra will keep for only two or three days. When the ridges and tips of the Jamaican okra pod start to turn dark, use it or lose it. Once it starts to darken, Jamaican okra will quickly deteriorate. Jamaican okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. Nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber, which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy, decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Nearly 10% of the recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid are also present in a half-cup of cooked Jamaican okra.

Jamaican okra exudes a unique mucilaginous juice, which is responsible for its thickening power in the famous Louisiana Creole gumbo dish. Aside from gumbo, Jamaican okra compliments tomatoes, onions and corn, shellfish and fish stock. Jamaican okra has a subtle taste, similar to the flavor of egg Jamaican okra plant. Freezing is the best method for long term home storage of Jamaican okra. Freeze only young, tender Jamaican okra. Jamaican okra must be blanched before freezing, as with all vegetables. Unbalanced Jamaican okra will quickly become tough and suffer huge nutrient, flavor and color loss during freezing.

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