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|Maciel Family Farms|
Zarah okra is small to medium in size, averaging ten centimeters in length, and is elongated to cylindrical in shape with one tapered end. The skin is dark green, glossy, and smooth with five distinct, angular ridges and a straight to slightly curved shape. Underneath the surface, the flesh is pale green to white and is crisp, firm, fibrous, and semi-hollow with a central cavity filled with round, cream-colored seeds. Zarah okra is crunchy with a green, herbaceous flavor and develops a tender, mucilaginous texture when cooked.
Zarah okra is available in the summer.
Zarah okra, botanically classified as Abelmoschus esculentus, are elongated seed pods that grow on tall plants that can reach up to one meter in height and are members of the Malvaceae family. A hybrid variety, Zarah okra is an early maturing plant that is ready for harvest approximately forty-two days after sowing. The plant is favored by home gardeners for its high yields, ease of harvest, and its ability to stay tender even when it grows to a large size.
Zarah okra contains vitamins A, B, C, and K, phosphorus, iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Zarah okra can be sliced raw into salads, or it can be cooked in applications such as frying, boiling, and pickling. The pods are popularly sliced, coated in seasonings and cornmeal, and fried for a crispy side dish. They can also be stuffed, layered in casseroles, mixed into rice, or used as a thickener in soups, stews, and curries. In addition to cooked applications, Zarah okra can be pickled for extended use, and the leaves are also edible and lightly sautéed. Zarah okra pairs well with tomatoes, eggplant, corn, peas, meats such as shrimp, poultry, sausage, ham, and bacon, pimiento cheese, red onions, pecans, basil, and rice. The pods should be harvested and used immediately for best flavor, but they will also keep for 2-3 days when stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator.
Zarah okra is a popular home garden variety favored for its early season, prolific harvest, and elongated, tender pods. The plant is also easy to grow, and as okra increases in popularity among chefs in the United States, new recipes are being released to encourage gardeners to cultivate their own plants. Hybrid varieties of okra have also seen a recent increase in popularity among small farms because they can be harvested weeks before common varieties, allowing farmers to sell their crops for a higher price, earlier in the season at local markets.
The origins of Zarah okra are mostly unknown, but it was believed to have been developed in the United States and released through VoloAgri® in partnership with Agriseeds as an early maturing, hybrid variety. Today Zarah okra is available at farmers markets and specialty grocers in the United States, Central America, and South America. The seeds are also available online for home garden use. The okra in the photo above was found through Maciel Family Farms in Bonsall, California.