Greek okra

My first job, when I was a young teen, was working at a farmers’ market for a vegetable farmer who would park his truck in a parking lot a little before 6am, unload while I showed up, and then drive away, leaving me in charge of everything.  I displayed the vegetables, weighed stuff out, made change.  It remains one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.  However, if there was one thing (besides getting up at 5:20am) that I didn’t like about that job, it was the okra.

Okra hurts.  I had never eaten okra before, and it would be many more years before I would try it for the first time, but a lot of people in our town liked it, and it was my job to put it in a bag for them.  It was like handling baby nettles.  Not a lot of fun.

Okra is one of those vegetables that a lot of people don’t bother with.  It has a weird name and it rarely shows up on the menu of favorite restaurants.  I re-discovered okra when I was on a diet.  As it turns out, you could probably eat okra forever and never gain weight.  It’s one of the lowest calorie foods in existence.  And I discovered that if you buy it frozen, it isn’t prickly!

Okra has a funny name in Greek too, borrowed from Turkish; maybe there’s just something about okra that makes people want to give it funny names.  Here it’s called bamies / μπάμιες (pronounced BAHM-yes).

This dish is about as simple as it gets if you want to understand Greek cooking.  The simple Greek recipe of “chop up some potatoes, carrots, and onions and throw them in a pot with ______ and some tomato sauce” is the basis of many Greek dishes.  So let’s get to it.

Chop the potatoes and carrots and throw them in a large pot with the okra.

Add some onion, garlic, and diced tomatoes.

Add enough water to cover the whole thing, and stir well.

Cover and cook until everything softens up nicely.  Add olive oil and serve with bread.  It’s that simple.  This is a very popular comfort food in Greece.  Warm and earthy and healthy and delicious!

Greek Okra
Serves 4

500g frozen okra
3 cups cubed potatoes
4-5 carrots, in rounds
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 can diced tomatoes in their juice
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil

1.  Put the okra, potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and salt in a large pot.  Stir and cover with water.  Stir well and cover the pot.

2.  Cook on medium-high heat until the potatoes are soft and the okra has started to break down.

3.  Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil over each serving. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with bread and a block of good Greek feta cheese.

Nutritional Information
per serving, i.e., 1/4 of the total recipe

330 calories
14g fat (2g saturated, 12g unsaturated)
49g carbohydrate
7g protein
9g dietary fiber
0mg cholesterol (0% DV)
1,034mg sodium (43% DV)
1,206mg potassium (34% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
vitamin A (412%), calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folate, manganese, and copper.

You might also like:
Greek lentil soup
Santorini fava
Manestra
Weird things in my kitchen

8 thoughts on “Greek okra

  1. We’ve enjoyed ‘bamyes’ often in UK & Greece. They are quite prolific growing in the sunshine. One summer our friend Alekos in Eresos picked some for us when we visited his vegetable garden. A few days later he asked us to pick ourselves some more from the first 2 rows. We had veg. in our fridge at that time so didn’t go straight away. 2 days later he asked why we didn’t pick them yet, they had grown very big and you really need to keep harvesting them. I think he didn’t plant so many the next year as he was quite fed up (literally!) with bamyes that year.
    He showed me how to cut the stalks off (at an angle around the top like sharpening a pencil) and told me to put a little wine vinegar over them, cover and leave for an hour or so, then wash before cooking. This prevents them going ‘slimy’ when cooked. Otherwise the recipe was similar with onions, garlic and tomatoes and other vegetables as available.

    • that’s cool that he has a way to prevent them from getting ‘slimy,’ since that’s the most common complaint / reason people give for not eating okra. I actually like the texture because it’s so different from other vegetables, but I can definitely understand why someone would find it off-putting. I’ve never grown them myself… probably wouldn’t want to because, as much as I like them, I don’t think I’d want to eat them more than once/month!

    • I didn’t even realize that you could make it with chicken until I had it that way with my mom in Santorini last spring. I will never forget that lunch because while we were eating our okra with chicken, there was a quite strong earthquake that had everything swaying for a long time. It turned out to be a very, very shallow earthquake, but not particularly high on the Richter scale. There was no damage, and the owner of the restaurant was very comforting, but I had to get some air before I could think about eating again! But it was really delicious!

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