My Green Thumb

29 05 2012

I’ve had various luck with gardening and seed planting over the past year. I’ve learned that while I love the magical act of putting seeds in to a plastic full of dirt and nursing them into plants, I do not love the bush-whaking/upkeep of the garden area that is required to keep good planting ground. In Maewo especially, with all of the rain it is a 24/7 job to keep every other plant from over-growing my lil’ guys.

At any rate, I had some especially good luck with some okra seeds that I picked up last time I was in town. Not really sure why I wanted to grow okra, as I don’t really have the materials to make my favorite childhood southern dish, fried okra.

People in my village (and probably most of Vanuatu, even the US) have never heard of or tried okra. It was fun showing them the photo on the seed package and trying to explain what this seedy vegetable was. They all asked if we could eat the leaves, as they are quite similar to island cabbage. As the okra began to flower and make fruit, they were so fascinated by these little green guys. The first few that were ready I simply plucked off and ate raw, suprisingly tasty (but keep in mind my standards have changed a lot and i never get crunchy green vegetables at site).

My neighbor Delma who is quite progressive in her culinary tastes and cooking methods was the first person to voice interest in tasting my okra, and wanted to know how I would prepare them. I explained to her you usually just sliced them up and could boil or fry them, but that a lot of people didn’t like the fact that they could be quite slimey in texture. She asked me (in Bislama, of course) how I used to eat okra, and I told her as best as I could how to make fried okra. This is roughly what I told her in Bislama:

You slice the ends off the okra and then slice the okra into thin pieces. You turn them and fry them in egg with flour

The next morning she showed up at my house and excitedly handed me a plate of her creation:

Okra sliced and fried with an egg, served over fried flour (like a pancake, they call it “flour”). While it was delicious, it was obvious my descriptions and the vagueness that is Bislama did not accurately get across to her what I meant by my favorite fried vegetable. I like it rolled in egg and corn meal (but occasionally flour) and deep fried or fried til a bit burnt around the edges. My grandma makes this best.

I then had a massive amount of okra growing and had to be creative to create two dishes with the limited material I had.

The first was a spicy curry with a red and yellow curry sauce paste I had bought in Vila. I mixed the curry, a can of tomatoes, okra, and squeezed fresh coconut milk in to finish it off. I only had a small bag of pasta so I ate it over that. I shared this with my papa who loved it, as he is one of the rare Ni-Vans who likes spicy foods.

The other dish I made and shared with several people in the village was a creamy curry pasta with okra and avacado.

I fried the okra in sesame oil and dried garlic. Then I mixed a creamy curry spice packet with fresh coconut milk and turned it together. FInally topping it all off with green onion from my garden and fresh avacado from my avacado tree. Very tasty. The kids in the village actually really loved this, I think it was the first time they had tried any “macaroni” shaped this way. I am usually nervous about sharing my foods, and afraid that they will not appreciate my occasionaly comfort food creations, but this plate was finished by about 8 family members. With smiling happy faces.




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