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Lady's finger

An Introduction
Okra, also termed as lady's finger, is a flowering plant in the mallow family. This plant is known for its edible green fruits, or long green pods. It's scientific name is "abelmoschus esculentus" and also "hibiscus esculentus". For centuries, this green vegetable has been widely grown across the entire African region. The species apparently originated in the Ethiopian Highlands, though the manner of distribution from there is undocumented. African slaves brought it to USA.

It is cultivated in the entire warm temperate and tropical regions of the world for its fibrous fruits or pods containing round, white seeds. The fruits are harvested when immature and eaten as a vegetable. The plant prefers warm climate and tolerates poor soils with heavy clay and intermittent moisture. It is in the same plant family as hibiscus and cotton.

Okra/lady's finger is one of the most common vegetables of the South-Asian countries. It is used in preparing many yummy and delicious dishes. When cut, it releases a sticky material with thickening properties, often used in soups and stews. Gumbos, Brunswick stew, and pilaus are some well-known dishes which frequently use okra.


The word "okra" is derived from a word "ọ́kụ̀rụ̀" in Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria. In various Bantu languages, okra is called "kingombo" or a variant thereof, and this is the origin of its name in Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French. The Arabic "bāmyah" is the basis of the names in the Middle East, the Balkans, Turkey, Greece, North Africa and Russia. In Southern Asia, its name is usually a variant of "bhindi" or "vendi."

In the different regions of the world, Lady's Finger is known by different names such as:

  • Okra
  • Ochro
  • Okoro
  • Quimgombo / Quingumbo
  • Gombo
  • Kopi Arab
  • Kacang Bendi
  • Bhindi
  • Bendi
  • Bamia/Bamya/Bamieh
  • Gumbo.

Brief History in a Nutshell

  • The Egyptians were the first to cultivate it in the basin of the Nile in the 12'th century BC
  • It was propagated then through North Africa to the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and India
  • It arrived then in the Americas at Brazil (1658), Dutch Guinea and at New Orleans before extending in the United States and going up to Philadelphia in 1781

Nutritional Value
The following chart itself explains the nutritional value of the Lady's finger or Okra:

  • It is low in Sodium, Saturated Fat and Cholesterol, thus, an ideal diet for human consumption
  • High in Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Manganese, Protein, Riboflavin, Niacin, Iron, Zinc and Copper.

Pretty common in the Asian and African countries, lady's finger dishes are also popular in American and western countries. Following is a few detail of widely known and discussed recipes of this green pod:

  • Bhindi Masala
  • Bhindi Raita
  • Brunswick Stew
  • Eggless Tiramisu
  • Indian Okra
  • Kadhai Bhindi
  • Microwave Bhindi
  • Rajasthani Bhindi
  • Stuffed Bhindi
  • Tiramisu
  • Vathal Kolambu
  • Vendakkai Mandi
  • Vendakkai More kulambu
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