Call it okro or okra, you’re not wrong. Call it lady finger, you’re also in order. The difference is just that people across the world choose the name they give okra. But any of the names is correct for the same plant.
For instance, in many English-speaking countries the word okra is used but it’s widely accepted or known as ladies’ fingers or ochro, while some other countries just stick with okra or any other name acceptable within the clime.
In Nigeria, okro/okra is commonly the preferred name used; with different indigenous names. For example, the Yoruba speaking people call it ‘ila’, okuru, by the Igbo speakers, and Kubewa in the Hausa language.
However, among the food crops indigenous to Africa, okro is one of the mostly acceptable fruits used by Africans/Nigerians in preparation of their different delicacies. Okra can be used for soups, stews and other sauces; it’s all about how the users want it used.
The Yoruba people use okra in so many ways. Okro can be cooked as ‘ila alasepo’ meaning okra cooked together to form a delicious combo. It can also be used as ila (okra) laced with iru (locust beans) and obe ata (stew in Yoruba form).
Igbos used okra for many delicacies too numerous to mention. One way Igbos used the fruit is cooking it together with ugwu (pumpkin leaves) decorated with assorted meat, fish, stock fish (oporokpo), crayfish etc. to form a good pot of delicious soup. You can never go wrong eating this soup with yellow garri (eba), fufu or any other preferred ‘swallow’ just as we call it here in Nigeria. The soup is better enjoyed fresh from the kitchen than when reheated.
Okra, is also used by Igbos to cook yam. Some amount of the fruit plant is diced inside a well-cooked yam alongside other fresh leaf to garnish the yam porridge.
Again, at some other times, Igbo speaking tribes and other natives, mix okra with ogbono (another local soup) sometimes for a better taste or just as they want it to be. The argument is also that, okra makes ogbono soup ‘draw’ (slime) better.
For the Hausas, okra is used to cook soups for tuwo shinkaffi among many other uses known to the tribe.
Okra, although eaten across most of West and South Africa, but despite the general acceptance, there are wide range of myths and many speculations attach to enjoying the delicacy. While some abstain from the richness of the pod for ‘spiritual’ reasons, other people savour its deliciousness. More so, some people simply reject okra on health grounds. For whatsoever reason(s), we say, ‘one man’s meat, is another man’s poison.’
Okra is also called ‘lady finger(s)’ just because of their shape. The argument is that they resemble the thin delicate fingers of a woman. Like human ladies fingers, some come short, others come long; depending on genetic factors. Whether long or short, they both have the same health benefits.
Moreover, since the discovery of the edible seed pods, the entire okra plant is also considered as edible. Researchers have also discovered that okra pods can be eaten raw; the less cooked okra is, the better it is for you.
Okra, from research is a “nutritious food with many health benefits; it is rich in magnesium, folate, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin A and C, K1” with many health benefits; such as, good heart health, blood sugar control…
Historians confirm that okra, with botanical name ‘abelmoschus esculentus’ was discovered as an ancient vegetable dating back to about the 12th century and that it originated from southern Ethiopia before it spreads to Egypt, other parts of North Africa, and eventually to many other countries of the world. Since the discovery of okra as food, it has not really been established if the plant is actually a vegetable plant or a fruit plant.
While some say the edible plant is fruit that can be cooked with other vegetables, like rice or made into soup; others argued that the food crop is nothing but vegetable. Whichever that is right, okra can be enjoyed in any way the cook/chef chooses to use the seedy pod.
Another argument for or against okra, depending on factors peculiar to the individual, is the slimy nature. While some like it that way, others detest okra just for the singular reason that it slims!
But, why is okra slimy? Research have this to say, “okra pods are known as “mucilaginous,” which results in a slimy or gooey mouth feel when cooked. This “mucilage” or slime contains soluble fiber that we can digest. Some folks enjoy this texture, while others try to mask the slippery nature of the pods.”
In Nigeria, okra is among the less expensive food items especially during the raining seasons. Nutritionists say, Okra is loaded with vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber and is more than just a food; it is also a medicine. They state some of the wonderful health benefits of Okra plant.
Okra helps in weight management and it’s good for people on a weight loss or fitness journey. This is because 100g of raw okra pods contains 30 calories and also has lots of dietary fibers that gives you a feeling of fullness without adding so much weight.
Also, okra is considered as great food for pregnant women, because it contain folic acid which is needed for the formation of the neural tube of the fetus.
Okra is again, said to be a good source of laxative that aids bowel movement. It is also said to be good for the skin and hair.
It is also revealed from research that okra relieves cough and improves eyes vision. It is said to cure and prevent constipation.
Aren’t these enough good reasons to love Okra? Why not consider using okra/okro/lady finger, as a part of your menu this weekend! Then join the conversation on SarahReports.com and on our FB page, by telling us how okra is used and preserved in your locality, region or state.