The star of the garden this week is the okra, a hot-weather plant. And yes, the photo above is an okra blossom. If it reminds you of an hibiscus, there's a reason: they belong to the same (Malvacea) family.
I have a dozen okra plants in bloom and producing this week and will soon have more: the second planting is just coming up. I grow Clemson Spineless and Hill Country Red. In another week we'll have okra for the freezer, as well as for the dinner table.
Okra is a hardy plant. It doesn't like cold weather, but with a drink of water in the morning, it will survive the hottest afternoon. Domesticated along the Egyptian Nile in the 12th century BCE, it's beloved in hot regions around the world, where it grows best. If your summers are cool and you can't grow it, just wait another decade or so. Climate change is coming in your direction. Meanwhile, there's plenty in the supermarket this month.
Our favorite is Texas-fried Okra:
1/2 pound okra for every two people
chile powder & garlic powder (you decide how much)
salt & pepper
cornmeal, mixed with some finely crushed (really, really fine) tortilla chips
lard (yes, I know, but it's still the best. Use non-hydrogenated, if you can find it)
Pick okra when the pods are almost 3" long. Wash. Cut off the stems and slice diagonally into 1/4 inch pieces. Salt liberally and let set for about 20 minute, then rinse. (This reduces the musilage.) Sprinkle with chile powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, then dredge in the cornmeal/tortilla chips, tossing the pieces until they are thoroughly coated. Heat 1/4 inch lard in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the okra (don't plop it all in at once, drop in the individual pieces so they don't stick together). When nicely brown on both sides, dip them out with a perforated spatula. Drain on a paper towel before serving.
We love fried okra with a sauce made of mayo thinned with vinegar and a squeeze of lemon, sweetened with a little sugar, and peppered. When I have fresh basil, I add some, minced. Yum.
On the writing desk. I'm on the last lap with the 2015 Darling Dahlias mystery and eager for the launch of the 2014 novel: The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush. Story Circle has opened its online bookstore from now through 9/15, so if you'd like a signed, personalized copy of the latest oboks, now's your chance. There's good news coming about another big project on the near horizon--more about that later.
Reading note: Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do. Wendell Berry