Okra seems to be a very prolific vegetable. Between it and zucchini, you can spend your entire summer trying to figure out what to do with the daily harvests. I know I do. I love slicing it and frying it in cornmeal as well as pickling it in a salty brine, but the time comes (all too soon) when I have run out of freezer space and jars. Dehydration is the solution to my dilemma.
Over the years, I have worn out several dehydrators, but I have two that I still continually use – Nesco and the Excalibur. Both are simple to use but there is quite a price difference between the two. The main thing when selecting a dehydrator is to make sure it has variable temperatures and a fan.
Dehydrating okra is a very simple process and the end product can be used as a crunchy snack with or without dip, or it can be easily reconstituted in soups and gumbos.
Okra is also one of those vegetables that must be picked every other day to continually produce. The larger they grow the tougher they become so pick only small or medium sized pieces from the stalks. You can discard the larger pieces they won’t be good to eat.
Select Your Okra
Pick only the new tender pieces of okra and then rinse several times in fresh running water to remove debris and dirt. Although they may look clean, you will find bits of dirt in the bottom of your bowl.
After rinsing the okra, slice off the cap end and the black spot on the bottom. Slice into round pieces about ¼ to ½ inch thick into a clean dry bowl. The okra may feel slimy to touch but that is normal, there is no need to rinse it again. I do rinse my hands though as I cut up the pieces.
Load okra pieces onto dehydrator trays, leaving some space between the pieces. They will dry to about half their original size so it is not critical to be perfect with the spacing. (Pictured is the Excalibur dehydrator. I recommend using this Dehydrator from Amazon, or this Nesco dehydrator)
Set your dehydrator dial to 125-130 degrees or to vegetable setting and dry for 4-6 hours or until dry and crunchy. They should resemble Captain Crunch cereal when dry. You can check them after four hours and then proceed to dry checking hourly as each dehydrator dries a bit differently and your environment (dry or humid) could speed up or slow down the drying process. If using a round type of dehydrator, move your trays down, and replace with the lower ones. This will help ensure even drying.
Okra should retain most of its color when dry, you do not want to over dry it and have it turn brown.
Now that all your okra is dry, it is time to decide how to store it. I like to prepare mine as if it were for long term storage, so I pour it into clean sterilized jars and add an oxygen absorber and a lid and ring. This will seal it and remove air so it will last longer. I dehydrated about 3 gallons of fresh okra. It filled five trays and when dried fit into a single quart jar.
I like to use the 100-cc size oxygen absorbers in pint jars, or you can put 2 in a quart jar. In a few hours, you will hear a ping sound and your jar will be sealed.
You can also use a jar sealer attachment if you prefer, such as this one.
You can add spices and salts to your okra before drying for a great vegetable snack. Cinnamon sugar is a great option too. You may want to hide it from the family though, as once discovered it quickly becomes a favorite snack.
Here are some of my favorite ways of using reconstituted okra for you to try.
Okra and Rice
1 cup dried okra
1 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup onion chopped (or ¼ cup dehydrated)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon pepper
2 cups tomatoes chopped or reconstituted dehydrated tomato pieces.
Cooked rice about 3 cups
Soak the dried okra in water for a couple of hours. Drain remaining water. Place butter, onion, and okra in a frying pan. Add garlic powder and pepper. Stir fry until vegies are lightly cooked. Add the tomato, and cover. Cook until the okra is done and serve over the hot cooked rice.
Tomato and Okra Corn Chowder
5 cups boiling water
1 1/4 cups dried corn
1 cup dried okra
½ cup dried onion, or 1 fresh chopped
½ cup celery or ¼ cup dried
¼ cup chopped bell pepper or 2 T dehydrated
6 slices of bacon
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon parsley
1 ½ cups diced potatoes or 1 cup dehydrated pieces reconstituted in boiling water and drained.
1 cup milk
In a heavy saucepan, pour 5 cups boiling water over corn and okra. Let sit for 2 hours to reconstitute. Pour more water over other dehydrated veggies if using (onion, celery, and peppers)
In medium skillet fry bacon until crisp. Drain and crumble, then set aside. Sauté onion, pepper, and celery in remaining bacon until tender. Add sautéed vegetables and bacon drippings to corn and okra. Stir in tomatoes and spices. Cover and simmer over low heat for an hour. Add potatoes and simmer 30 minutes more. Stir in milk. Heat until almost boiling. Garnish with crumbled bacon and fresh parsley if desired. 4-6 servings.
Just Add Seasoning
There are many different seasonings that you can add to okra before it dries as well. If you are fond of Mexican or Cajun Spices, or even ranch dressing mix, can jazz up this little vegetable into a wholesome crunchy snack.