Gardening author Barbara Wilde writes, “Okra is just like the Mason-Dixon line of vegetable gardens, separating North from South.” It’s true that almost all of us right here in Yankeeland don’t know what to do with okra.
Okra got here to this nation from Africa with enslaved folks and likes an extended rising season so it’s largely cultivated within the South and isn’t seen in these elements. Jubal Coli of Blue Heron Farm in Charlemont wish to make okra extra seen regionally.
Crimson okra is among the many new crops with which Coli is experimenting as he and his mother and father, Norma and Invoice Coli, ponder new instructions for the farm.
Blue Heron is thought for maple syrup, blueberries, Norwegian fjord horses, and trip leases. All of those enterprises proceed to flourish, though the horse breeding has been reduce lately.
However, Jubal Coli is contemplating including merchandise to the farm, particularly okra.
“I’ve simply been trying on the future,” he stated in a current interview. “Diversification is basically the way in which for us to go. In search of new income streams, in addition to experimenting with crops that aren’t widespread round right here.”
A Southern good friend advised he attempt rising okra. His first, small crop of purple okra — he selected it due to its magnificence, though it tastes much like conventional inexperienced okra — got here in final 12 months, and he’s now busy harvesting this 12 months’s crop.
Regardless of needing an extended rising season, okra is certainly viable in New England whether it is planted as quickly as attainable after the final frost, usually after Memorial Day, he instructed me.
He started selecting in late August. His okra crops are taller than I’m though Coli nonetheless towers above them. They sport beautiful blossoms; okra is a part of the hibiscus household. And the purple pods are brilliant and helpful for a wide range of recipes, from the normal Louisiana gumbo to the pickles Invoice Coli makes with them.
I requested Jubal Coli what he likes to do with okra. It’s truly a fruit, however like tomatoes and squash is usually used as a vegetable.
“I like fried issues,” he stated with a smile.
He likes to bread small items of okra and fry them. He additionally likes to prepare dinner them with tomatoes and serve the mixture over rice.
He hopes in future years to promote his okra regionally to small grocery shops and eating places. “There’s some particular curiosity within the native space,” he famous. “We introduced a few kilos right down to Wells Provisions [the new restaurant/food shop in Charlemont].”
Coli is experimenting with a few different crops as nicely. An heirloom corn selection often called Bloody Butcher due to its vivid purple hue has been used to make cornmeal on this nation for a few hundred years, he knowledgeable me. He needs to start out grinding his personal meal with the corn sooner or later.
He has additionally begun to develop edamame, the soybean pods which have grow to be widespread lately as a tasty supply of protein.
Like okra, each the purple corn and the edamame are uncommon for our space as a result of they require an extended rising season than many native crops. Coli argues that our season is just not too quick for them, nevertheless.
The truth that few farms in western Massachusetts produce these crops is each a boon and a problem. Their relative uniqueness will make Blue Heron Farm stand out.
They don’t seem to be as nicely often called the corn, tomatoes, and squash that abound in native farm stands, nevertheless.
Consequently, Blue Heron Farm should educate the general public so as to set up a marketplace for the crops and associated merchandise just like the cornmeal Jubal Coli needs to make and the pickles his father prepares utilizing the okra on the farm.
Coli is as much as the problem. “I’m on the level the place I need to share,” he stated, “to have the farm be a group useful resource.”
Workshops and cooking courses could also be sooner or later for Blue Heron Farm. I’ve volunteered to assist with the courses.
In the meantime, right here is the recipe Invoice Coli makes use of to pickle okra in his cozy, colourful Nineteenth-century kitchen. Though Blue Heron Farm isn’t promoting okra commercially but, I’ve seen it at Foster’s Grocery store in Greenfield and on the Bars Farm in Deerfield prior to now.
A observe: You will need to stir the pickles earlier than sealing them to take away as a lot air as attainable. Okra is just not uniformly dense so the pods maintain additional air. If one doesn’t launch the air bubbles, they’ll come out throughout processing, maintaining the tops of the okra pods from being submerged within the brine.
This isn’t an unsurmountable downside; it occurred to me, and Invoice Coli advised that I rotate my jars every so often to ensure that each ends of the pods soak up brine. It’s finest nipped within the okra bud, nevertheless.
In the event you’re unable to search out okra, be at liberty to adapt this recipe for different greens. Invoice Coli additionally makes use of it for sliced bell peppers from his backyard, including some onion slices for additional taste. In that case, he goes as much as 2½ cups every of vinegar and water and will increase the maple syrup to 1 or 1¼ cups.
roughly 8 cloves garlic (peeled)
roughly 1/4 cup pickling spices
roughly 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1½ kilos okra pods
2 cups vinegar (Invoice Coli makes use of white distilled vinegar)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Sterilize 4 pint jars, lids, and bands. Whereas the jars are nonetheless heat, trim the okra pods in order that they match into the jars with 1/4- to 1/2-inch head area. Into every jar, pack 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon spices, 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, and trimmed okra pods as wanted (alternating which finish is as much as maximize area).
Deliver the vinegar, water, salt, and syrup to a boil. Pour this combination over the greens within the jars, leaving the identical head area you left with the okra. Use a clear knife or different implement to stir the okra to launch air.
Cowl the jars with lids and bands, and course of them in a boiling-water bathtub for quarter-hour (20 minutes in case your elevation is larger than 3000 ft). Take away the jars from the new water, and depart them on the counter to chill and seal for a number of hours. Examine the seals earlier than you place the jars in a cool, darkish place to mature.
The pickles will likely be able to eat in 4 to 6 weeks. Refrigerate leftover pickles after you open the jars. Makes about 4 pints (relying on the size of your okra).
Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning creator of “The Pudding Hole Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Go to her web site, TinkyCooks.com.