OKRA SEASON IN THE SOUTH

roosters

Delaware roosters bask in a sunny fall day

Bastien and I were helping our friend in Atlanta, Farmer Joe, with his CSA (community supported agriculture) drop-off last week, when a little girl approched our stand.

“Have you got any strawberries?” she inquired.
“No, they aren’t in season,” I told her.
“They’re in season at Kroger,” she informed me, as she walked away.
Speechless, I could not help but laugh, and hope that someone will teach children about seasons.
*Kroger is a supermarket

We are visiting my family in the United States and discovering the local and organic varieties of food.  We have tumbled upon gigantic elephant garlic, pak choy, pink and green collard greens, sweet potatoes, peanuts, green peppers, purple peppers, hot peppers, Jerusalem artichokes, spotted lettuce, baby turnips, peppery arugula, tiny red beets, goat cheeses, the most beautiful and friendly white chickens, and even these crazy little flowers called electric buttons that rightly deserve their name when popped in the mouth.

The first crop to stand out though, was the okra.

okra-salad

Joe’s Okra Salad

Okra won’t let just anyone pick it, and makes this point with sharp little hairs that prick poking fingers. It grows in high rows that tower over my head.  To harvest, we wore gloves, and I tipped my head down to avoid prickly hairs falling into my eyes. At lunch, Joe would slice up a few okra pods and eat them in a raw salad. Delicious!

To make this salad, just add some olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and pepper and toss.

If you are not a fan of okra’s slimy seeds, try them pickled.

okra-pickled

Iola’s Pickled Okra

Iola, an elderly friend who grew up in the South gave us a jar of her fabulous pickled okra.  They are an exciting alternative to a pickle or cornichon and would please even those who don’t like okra’s slimy seeds.

To make pickles, you need:

Empty jars and lids, sterilized in boiling water
Okra
Mixture of half water half vinegar and a spoonful of salt
Garlic cloves
….
Stuff the rinsed okra and a clove of garlic into the jars as tightly as possible.
Bring the vinegar, water, salt mixture to a boil and pour into jars.
Tightly close the jars and place the jars in a saucepan of boiling water, making sure they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for about 5 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool.

A few weeks have passed since the last of the okra plants were torn out of the ground to make way for next spring’s strawberry plants.

Collard greens are another local flavor.  A thick leaf that is usually cooked, we learned of another way to eat them which turns out to be quite refreshing.

collard-massageNatalie’s Massaged Collard Greens

Natalie, and intern on a farm where we spent a few days, had just learned this recipe from a raw food specialist.

To make:

Chop the leaves very thinly. Squeeze the juice of a lemon on them. Add a spoonful or two of olive or grapeseed oil. Wash your hands really well, then use them to massage the leaves with the lemon juice, making sure to crush them well. Wait a few minutes before serving.

steamed-stemsSteamed Collard Stems

I quite enjoy collard green stems as well. Just steam and serve with a pinch of fleur de sel, or salt.

A special area of southern American cuisine goes to hot peppers. They are used to make hot sauce, pickled peppers, pizza toppings, salsa, chili, and many other things.  Beware of harvesting and handling them, as we discovered!

pickled-peppersMary and Christie’s Hot Pickled Peppers

Hot peppers can burn your skin just as fire. We used gloves to pick and slice these peppers.  After slicing a few pounds, our throats began to burn and itch, so we opened the windows.  Upon removing my gloves, I happened to rub my cheek, which promptly turned bright red and tingled for the rest of the day.  Needless to say, I kept my hands away from my eyes for about 3 days after this!

A taste test revealed these babies to be sweet… then dangerously hot! We couldn’t help but eat more and more, until all of our throats were burning. Yummy little devils!

We made these in the same way we made the okra above. We are also experimenting with lacto-fermentation and so far this technique results in a delicious treat as well with a sweet and spicy brine.

Our American southern foods extravaganza continues for another month before returning to France. Next, I plan to explore the sweeter side of American cooking…

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5 comments

  1. What a wonderful post, so full of interesting things to read…thank you for sharing. 🙂

  2. Loved your post…I am always in France during okra season in North Carolina and oh, how I miss it. Have you tried to grow it in France?

    • I haven’t yet tried to grow it in France, but will probably give it a try next year! I went hiking in North Carolina a few weeks ago. Beautiful weather!

  3. I am enjoying your blog. I don’t see an RSS feed or whatever it is on WordPress that lets me know that you have posted something new…..

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