OKRA is this week’s Fresh Pick of the Week from the Summer Certified Farmers’ Market. Okra is a Summer favorite throughout North America, and a year-round favorite in the Southeastern United States where it figures prominently into Southern and Creole cooking. Thought to have originated in Africa, Okra was brought to North America by African slaves over three centuries ago. It is usually grown as an annual in vegetable gardens, although in some climates it thrives as a perennial as well.
Okra plants can grow as tall as seven feet. The blooms are large and quite lovely, bearing a noticeable resemblance to the flowers of the Hibiscus plant (which is a botanical cousin of Okra). Flowers range in color from white to yellow, and all have a deep purple spot at the center of the flowers. The green seed pods, which are also referred to asOkra, are the part of the plant most often eaten. They are picked while they are immature; before they become too woody and fibrous. Okra is technically a fruit, but, like many other fruiting bodies, Okra is generally eaten as a vegetable.
DID YOU KNOW: Mucilage, a thick, gluey substance produced by nearly all plants, is particularly abundant in Okra, giving the seed pods their distinctive “slimy” texture. Mucilage is also a powerful thickening agent, and because it is abundant in Okra leaves, they can be used to thicken soups and stews.
Price: $ 3 a pound.
Also in Season: Celery, Green Onions, FRESH and DRIED Herbs, Eggs, Dates, Almonds, Oranges, Grapefruit, Chard, Eggplant, Squash, Onions, Garlic, Apples, Shallots, Beets, Green Beans, Carrots, Tomatoes, Green Tomatoes, Peppers, Lettuces, Parsley, Mint, Broccoli, Cabbage, Spinach, Radishes, Leeks, Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus, Cherimoyas, Dates . . . . PLUS, incredible artisan breads, fresh meats, cheese, fresh raw honey, California olives/olive oil/vinegars, and a wide variety of exotic Orchids and flowers.
The Summer Certified Farmers’ Market accepts CalFresh EBT Cards, WIC Farmers’ Market Checks, and Senior Farmers’ Market Checks. The Market also offers Market Bucks that can be purchased using charge cards or cash, then used at the market for purchases.
The Certified Farmers’ Markets are the Coachella Valley’s only State and County Certified Farmers’ Markets. That means all the fruits, vegetables, meats and other products that are on sale at the markets have been grown on California Certified farms. In addition, almost all the farms are located within a 90 mile radius of the markets (thus reducing the carbon footprint), and more than 60% of the products sold are “USDA Certified Organic.”
The Certified Farmers Markets are sponsored by the Palm Springs Cultural Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which was established to encourage the development of the cultural arts in the Coachella Valley with a specific focus in the areas of film, fine art, live performance, dance, music, and community festivals. The Center is dedicated to advancing education, to nurturing community-wide participation in the cultural arts, and to sponsoring scholarship awards for deserving individuals.