All About Okra

Cooking the versatile vegetable

BY Sara LeWinter

Allison Potter/WBM File Photo
Allison Potter/WBM File Photo

Originating in Southeast Asia, Egypt and West Africa, okra has been nourishing New Hanover County communities for centuries. Considered a symbol of abundance in many cultures, there are several varieties of okra.

Rise Up Community Farm, a local nonprofit fighting food insecurity through community gardening, includes red and green okra varieties in its weekly food pantry boxes. It offers volunteer opportunities from February to November that include the chance to learn how to grow and harvest the different varieties.

“We just celebrated four years of having the farm back here. One thing that has been really cool is to have the community become a part of it,” says co-founder Mari Carl Fisher.  

There isn’t much flavor difference between the varieties, but red okra packs more nutrition such as magnesium, folate, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins C, K1 and A.

“It has a ton of fiber in it, it’s healthy,” Fisher says. “Okra is a favorite in the community; we can never grow enough. The flowers are very similar to hibiscus flowers, so it’s not only yummy, it’s beautiful.”

Interested in adding okra to your garden? The Wilmington Parks and Recreation department manages a free seed library program in Maides Park. The seed library includes a variety of flowers, herbs and vegetables, including okra. People can donate seeds from their plants back to the library to be part of the growing cycle.

Okra is a favorite Southern staple. Red or green okra can be fried, baked, grilled, steamed or stewed to complement any meal.

In the fight against food insecurity, nonprofit Rise Up Community Farm is in it’s fourth year. The farm provides opportunities to learn, grow and gather. Allison Potter/WBM File Photo

Rise Up Community Farm co-founder Daniel Fisher shares his family’s new simple favorite recipe. Squeeze lemon on the whole pods, red or green, then add salt and pepper, and let sit for 30 minutes. Put them on the grill and char or blister on both sides. This can also be done in the oven.

Here are a couple of other easy okra recipes to start delighting your dinner guests.

Fried Okra 

Serves 6


  • 1 lb fresh okra, cut into ½-inch slices
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups self-rising white cornmeal mix
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground red pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil


Combine the okra and buttermilk in a bowl. In another bowl, stir together the cornmeal, salt, sugar and red pepper. Dredge the okra in the cornmeal to coat, then place in a wire-mesh strainer to shake off any excess.

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottom pot until it reaches 375 degrees. Fry the okra in batches until golden brown, turning to cook on all sides if necessary. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle on salt while hot.

Okra Soup

Serves 4-5


  • 1 lb fresh okra, cut into ½-inch slices
  • 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, diced small
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • ½ small green bell pepper, diced small
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced small
  • 16 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs of green onion, sliced
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, fresh or dried, chopped
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes, diced small
  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of rice, parboiled or Carolina Gold, washed


In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon until fat is rendered and bacon bits are slightly crispy. Remove from heat and set aside. Add vegetable oil and sauté okra until slightly charred. Remove and set aside. Sauté onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic and green onions until onions are translucent. Add rosemary, bay leaves and cayenne pepper. Fry until seasonings begin to toast. Add diced tomatoes and 2 cups of vegetable broth. Cook 5-10 minutes until boiling. Reduce to a simmer.

To cook rice, add rice and 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth to a medium pot. Cover tightly and bring to a boil. Turn heat to the lowest setting and allow to steam for 20-30 minutes until rice is tender.

Combine soup and rice ingredients to create the complete okra soup dish.

1 Comment

  1. John Kowalski on February 28, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    Great stuff! I’m looking forward to making both of these recipes. Thank you!

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