Temperature, moisture and improper handling can cause previously bright green okra pods to develop discolored dark or black spots. Starting with young, 3-inch pods and handling them correctly from purchase to preparation helps ensure they remain firm and flavorful with no blackening. Serve okra in stews, battered and fried, or as whole roasted pods.
Select the Best
Bruises and blemishes that occur during harvest or at the store can cause the interior and the exterior of the pods to discolor or blacken. Select bright green, firm pods without any visible bruises to minimize the chances of discoloration after purchase. Avoid pods with soft spots or blemishes that indicate internal bruising. Pods that appear dull in color, dry or shriveled may also discolor and they won’t have the optimum flavor of fresh.
The Big Chill
Chill injury causes pods to discolor and sometimes darken or turn black. When storing okra, refrigerate it above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The vegetable drawer in the fridge is the best location, while the back of the fridge usually has the coldest temperature and is the location most likely to cause chill injury. Keep the unwashed okra in an open plastic bag so excess moisture can escape, which further prevents discoloration. Use the okra within 3 days to ensure best color and flavor.
Handle With Care
Handle okra minimally during storage and preparation to minimize bruising and prevent discoloration. Rinse the pods briefly under running water to clean them right before you cut them. Use a sharp knife that cuts cleanly through pods without causing bruises. Cut pods into thick slices. Fewer cuts lessen discoloration and the sliminess of the pods.
Into the Pot
Minimize air exposure to cut pods by cooking or breading them immediately after washing and cutting. Cast iron and aluminum pots and cookware has a chemical reaction to okra, which causes the vegetable to darken or turn black. Although not harmful, using cookware made from alternate materials prevents the discoloration. Add okra to recipes in the last 10 minutes of cooking to minimize sliminess, unless you are cooking it in a soup or stew where the thick juices add to the broth.
References and ResourcesTexas International Produce Association: Okra
University of Nebraska Extension: Okra
Whole Foods Market: Okra