Okra scientifically known as Abelmoschus esculentus, also Hibiscus esculentus is one delicacy many Nigerians`cherish and relish daily. From the Yorubas in Ogun to the Benins in Edo and the Igbos in Imo, Okra is one meal that graces their dinning table. A lot of people know exactly how to combine it with eba, fufu, amala or pounded yam, but that’s just about all they know about it. Many have no idea where Okra was first discovered, what you do to yourself when you eat okra or whether Okra is only known to Nigerians or white people also eat it. We bring you answers to all of these and many more in this piece…
– In Spain okra is ‘quibombo’; the French word is ‘gombo,’ ‘bamia’ or ‘bamya,’ in India it is ‘bhindi,’ and in the eastern Mediterranean and Arab countries ‘bamies’.
– The term okra was in use in English by the late 18th century.
– Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia, and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians by the 12th century B.C. Its cultivation spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
– The seed pods were eaten cooked, and the seeds were toasted and ground, used as a coffee substitute (and still is).
– Okra came to the Caribbean and the U.S. in the 1700s, probably brought by slaves from West Africa, and was introduced to Western Europe soon after. In Louisiana, the Créoles learned from slaves the use of okra (gumbo) to thicken soups and it is now an essential in Créole Gumbo.
– Today okra is popular in Africa, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, India, the Caribbean, South America and the Southern U.S.
– Okra is a good source of vitamin C and A, also B complex vitamins, iron and calcium. It is low in calories, a good source of dietary fiber, and is fat-free. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin.
– The pods compose healthy amounts of flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. It is one of the vegetables with highest levels of these anti-oxidants. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties and are essential for vision. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
– Fresh pods are the good source of folates; provide about 22% of RDA per 100 g. Consumption of foods rich in folates, especially during the pre-conception period helps decrease the incidence of neural tube defects in the offspring.
– They are rich in B-complex group of vitamins like niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. The pods also contain good amounts of vitamin K. Vitamin K is a co-factor for blood clotting enzymes and is required for strengthening of bones.
– The pods are also good source of many important minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium.
Do you like okra soup???