A warm-weather vegetable known as gumbo in the South, okra displays showy blossoms that become tender pods. In the South, you can find fresh okra year round; but in most areas of the country, supermarkets carry the vegetable from spring through autumn. Look for okra with firm, bright green pods measuring less than 4 inches in length. Drying provides a simple, economical way to preserve this nutritious, flavorful vegetable. Wash the okra thoroughly before drying but leave the stems intact.
Spread the okra in a single layer on a baking pan or tray. Preheat the oven to 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which is usually the oven's lowest setting.
Prop the door open with a metal spoon or other nonflammable, heatproof object. Place a fan in front of the open door to provide air circulation.
Arrange the trays in the oven, allowing at least 3 inches from the top and bottom of the oven, and at least 2 1/2 inches between oven racks.
Place an oven thermometer on a rack in the center of the oven. Check the thermometer every two hours and open the door wider if the temperature is too high. Proper drying requires temperatures between 140 and 150 F.
Rotate the trays every 30 minutes, turning each tray front to back and moving the trays from top to bottom. Dry the okra for four to 12 hours, or until the okra is hard and brittle.
Turn off the heat when the okra is nearly dry to prevent scorching. With the trays in the oven, leave the door wide open for an hour.
Set the dehydrator at 140 degrees F.
Arrange the okra in a single layer on drying trays. Be sure no pods are overlapping or touching.
Place the drying trays in the dehydrator, allowing at least 1 inch between trays to provide air circulation. Turn the pods every two to three hours so the pods dry evenly.
Dry the okra eight to 10 hours, or until the pods are crisp and brittle.
Storing Dried Okra
Allow the okra to cool completely. Fill a large glass or plastic container about two-thirds full, then cover the container loosely and place it in a warm, dry location for four to 10 days. This conditioning process ensures the okra is evenly dried.
Shake the container daily to prevent the okra pods from sticking together. If you notice evaporation on the inside of the container, return the okra to the oven or dehydrator until the vegetables are dry and brittle and no moisture remains.
Place the dried okra in a sealed plastic container or clean glass jar. Store the containers in a dry, well-ventilated location. Dried okra keeps for three to six months when stored properly.
Although most vegetables must be blanched prior to drying, this step is not required for okra.
Because of the risk of spoilage, sun drying is not recommended for okra and other vegetables.
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion: Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- Alabama Cooperative Extension Service: How to Dry Okra
- University of Illinois Extension: Okra
- Colorado State University Extension: Drying Vegetables
- University of Georgia Cooperative Extension: Preserving Food: Drying Fruits and Vegetables
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: Using Dehydration to Preserve Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats