Last night I tried okra for the first time. My roommate is from Texas and had mentioned that he hadn't had okra in a long time. In a serendipitous turn of events, I came across a recipe for 'oven fried' (ie breaded and baked) okra in one of my Cooking Light cookbooks, and then found fresh okra at the grocery store.
Okra is a strange little vegetable. It looks something like a cross between a pepper and a cucumber. And it's fuzzy. On the plus side, they're fairly small and easy to work with, similar in size, shape, and texture to a jalopeno pepper. Except they're fuzzy. That seems to be one of their defining characteristics.
I cut my okra into bite sized pieces, so basically halves and thirds for the size I was working with. The inside looks similar to a pepper as well, with the seeds around a central core. Okra is not hot and the seeds and core are soft enough that you don't need to take them out. When cut, okra oozes like an aloe plant, but not as sticky. I can see why this vegetable would turn slimy when boiled. I tried a piece raw and thought it was bitter. And fuzzy. Did I mention fuzzy?
The okra I made didn't come out very good. The cornmeal breading was too hard and the okra itself was a little dry and unflavorful. I think this happened because the okra finished before the rest of the meal and I was trying to keep it warm. I think I left it in the oven too long and dried it out. Cooked, okra is much less bitter and lacks the fuzzy texture.
Overall, I wasn't very impressed, although I think that the problem had more to do with my execution rather than the taste of the okra itself. I'd like to give okra another try, breading and frying it as it is more traditionally prepared. I'll postpone the verdict on okra until then.