What’s long, green, and full of nutrients? We’ll bet it’s not the vegetable you’re thinking of. Okra is a delicious vegetable that shoppers stock up on in the summer, and those shoppers often know how to preserve okra.
Whether you’re buying in bulk from a grocery store or growing your own, okra begins piling up towards the end of the summer. This surplus leaves many people at a loss for what to do with the extras.
Okra is a seasonal veggie with edible seed pods served in soups, stews, as a side, and various other ways. Preserving okra is a way to keep this delectable food in your home for long periods without losing the nutritional value.
While it is safe to eat fresh okra from the fridge after three days, there are tons of ways to preserve okra that extend shelf life for up to 14 months.
If you find yourself with pounds and pounds of this tasty veggie, don’t throw them away. There are several options for preserving your okra for the remainder of the year.
Simple and Delicious Ways to Preserve Okra
Okra was first brought to America by French colonists. Louisiana was the first state to incorporate it into their cooking and is now a staple in many traditional southern dishes like gumbo.
If you’re traveling to another country, there’s a significant chance that you won’t hear it referred to by the name okra. Lady’s fingers are another popular name for this green veggie.
Okra’s torpedo-shaped pod is typically five to six inches long and either pale or lime green in color. The outer shell ranges from fuzzy to prickly to the touch and bears a spongy texture when eaten.
The outer shell is either ridged or smooth. There are ridged varieties of okra, but the smooth type is equally enticing. The seed cell is full of small, white seeds. Although okra is often available year-round, the peak season takes place during the hot summer months.
Okra is not a vegetable often eaten on its own. Instead, it’s used to complement other dishes with more complex flavors. Some of the okra’s best companions are bacon, butter, garlic, lemon, onions, olive oil, pickled veggies, chile peppers, cream, and more.
Aside from its attribution to flavoring other dishes, okra has a multitude of health benefits. It aids in digestion, is high in vitamin C, improves skin and eye health, and is high in fiber source.
Preserving okra is an excellent place to start if you’re looking to incorporate more beneficial foods into your diet. Before you start preserving your okra, look for the best quality produce at your local farmer’s market, or grow them in your garden.
Look for small pods. Large pods are often older and have a slimy texture. Snap the tip off one whole okra. It should break like a crisp green bean. Fresh okra should have no dark spots.
How long does okra last? Refrigerating okra gives you several days before it starts to spoil. However, there are a variety of methods to store okra so that you can eat it even when it’s not in season.
Learn the best way to freeze okra or follow our guidelines for other preservation strategies. They are all easy to implement and give you fresh okra whenever you want it.
Before canning vegetables, blanch them. Wash the okra and remove the ends. Bathe the okra in a large pot of boiling water for two to three minutes. While the okra cooks, fill a large bowl with ice water.
Remove the vegetables from the boiling water bath and dunk them in the ice water. Lay them on paper towels to dry. Blanching your okra gives it tender pods and helps preserve the nutrients.
Once you blanch your okra, place whole okra pods in the canning jars. You may also cut the okra into 1-inch pieces and place the cut okra into the jars. Pack the jars tightly, leaving a one-inch headspace at the top.
Add half a teaspoon of canning salt to pint jars and one teaspoon to quart jars, then fill the jars with boiling water, place the lids on the pint jars, and tighten the rings. Use a pressure canner and process at 11 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes for pint jars and 40 minutes for quart jars.
Spread a large dishcloth on the counter. Use a can lifter to remove the jars and place them on top of the cloth for 24 hours. Check to make sure each lid is properly sealed and store okra cans in a cool, dry place.
Preserving Okra by Pickling
Pickling veggies is another safe way to preserve them. They soak up the flavors of the added ingredients, and the process gives them a crisp crunch.
If you like the taste of dill pickles, you’ll love just about all pickled okra recipes you find on the internet. Learn how to make pickled okra for the whole family to enjoy.
Wash, trim, and blanch okra. Warm the jars in hot water and fill hot pint jars with whole okra. Leave a half inch headspace at the top. Put a clove of garlic in each jar. Combine water, vinegar, salt, peppers, and dill seed in a large pot.
Bring the mixture to a boil. Pour the solution over the okra, leaving a half inch headspace and put on the lids. Use a boiling water bath to process the jars for ten minutes.
You can use a similar recipe to store fresh banana peppers from your garden and virtually all other types of produce. With just a little tweaking to this recipe, you can pickle just about anything.
How to Preserve Okra in the Freezer
Just like when you want to preserve garlic bulbs, freezing okra is another simple way to preserve them. Wash, trim and blanch the okra pods. Lay the small pods out in a single layer on a cookie sheet or baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
Place uncovered in the freezer until completely frozen to prevent clumping. Transfer the okra into freezer bags or plastic bags, label the bags with the name and date, and store the okra pods in the freezer for up to a year.
If you are looking for ways to preserve avocados, the freezer is an excellent option. Whole, sliced, and pureed avocado all survive quite well after freezing.
Fried okra is one of our favorite okra recipes. It’s one of the most delicious ways to store fresh okra, too. Freeze okra before or after the frying process for a quick and delicious appetizer or snack.
Wash, trim, and blanch whole okra pods. Slice the pods crosswise. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal or flour with salt and pepper. Dredge the okra pieces in the dry mix and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place in the freezer until just frozen.
From here, place the prepped okra in freezer bags and fry at a later date or fry them now in half a cup of hot vegetable oil. Once browned, let them cool and freeze them in freezer bags for up to a year.
Preserving Okra through Dehydration
Drying okra doesn’t require a dehydrator. The oven is a perfectly safe way to dry and preserve your surplus of okra. It’s also an excellent way to preserve cucumbers without pickling them.
Preheat your oven to 140°F. Wash, trim, and blanch okra. Place whole okra pods in a single layer on a cookie or baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and cayenne pepper over the top.
Dry the okra in the oven for 12 hours, turning the okra every three hours to promote even drying. Store in an airtight container.
These ways to preserve okra offer simple yet delicious strategies for keeping this veggie in your home throughout the year. Okra doesn’t have to be enjoyed only with other dishes.
Many okra recipes make the vegetable the star ingredient and pack it full of flavor. If you’re a gardener, preserving okra at home could make the difference between enjoying your crop to the fullest or throwing money and food down the drain.
If you enjoyed learning how to preserve okra in a variety of ways, share these preservation methods on Facebook and Pinterest.