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Gumbo, pickles, soup and more recipes for okra, now in season

Gumbo, pickles, soup and more recipes for okra, now in season
Fresh okra for sale at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. (Noelle Carter / Los Angeles Times)

What's in season: What exactly do you do with okra? Though the vegetable is found in a number of cuisines throughout the world — including African (from which the pods were introduced to the American South), Thai and Indian — the member of the mallow family is often a challenge to cook, even for fans, because of its rather gelatinous texture. But the pods can be used in a number of ways, including stewed, fried or pickled. Okra is typically in season from summer through early fall, and varieties range in color from vivid green to deep shades of red and purple. To minimize its viscous texture, look for pods that are small and firm, avoiding okra that is overly ripe or large.

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What to cook: Because of that unique texture, okra is frequently used as a thickening agent, added to stews such as gumbo. To keep its syrupy effects to a minimum, cook the pods whole, or cook them quickly, preferably with an acid such as citrus or vinegar. Okra works well when added at the last minute to a sour fish soup or slowly stewed with potatoes and tomatoes. Snack on the vegetable as a "chip," frying sliced rounds dusted with cornmeal and served with ketchup or another dipping sauce. Okra also makes a great summer pickle.

What's on the horizon: Kabocha, acorn, butternut and other winter squash are just beginning to show up.

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