Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tropical Gasp and my recipe for Fried Okra

We're in the midst of a heat wave while we wait for July, when we can hope for that rare 'Cold Day in July' that comes along every few years.

Pride of Barbados and Esperanza are blooming.

Older blooms quickly fry to a crisp in the sun.

Not a tropical, just a Rudbeckia that 
something chewed the petals.

Gingers: Variegated Alpinia and Curcuma.
I trimmed low hanging branches this morning to reveal them.

Every year I intend to buy another Bird of Paradise.
There's never time for my Bird to bloom when it finally sprouts from roots.
 I love the leaves and will crowd one into the greenhouse if I find a suitable one.


Up close to see the odd arrangement of stamens and pistil.

Aucuba with ferns and sassafras

Hedychium coronarium with Shrimp Plant and Salvia leucantha.
Everything except the Shrimp blooms at summer's end.

A different Shrimp Plant: Justicia betonica

This shrimp plant doesn't seem to mind the heat.

Crocosmia is taking over in the upper garden. It flops over 
its neighbors like Persian Shield which droops in heat.
Crocomsia is just beginning to put on buds. 

You can't get more tropical than Okra.
Mine was wilted so I watered it this morning.
If I turn these dribblers over, they become sprinklers.

Right here I am going to answer Peter's question about how I prepare Okra. I like boiled okra, which is not the way to introduce someone to okra. I place the smallest pods on top of steamed or boiled peas or lima beans just before the peas are done. If okra is boiled for a long time it will be slimy. Steamed just tender, there is no slime.  I fry the larger pods and throw away the toughest. 

Most of the time we fry our Okra and I've found a fool-proof way to cook it unless you forget about it. I use a timer.

Fried Okra
Wash and cut okra into little rounds across the grain. Add 1/4 cup of cornmeal or cornmeal mix, whichever you have and stir to coat the okra. I use cornmeal mix, so add no salt. I like black pepper added to the meal.

Put the breaded okra into an oven proof skillet to which 2 tablespoons of cooking oil placed before the okra is added. I use a well seasoned black iron skillet. Drizzle a little oil over the top, not to coat, just a dribble or two.

Place in a 400º oven and bake for 25 minutes. Stir at least once during cooking. The okra will be done but may not be well browned at the end of 25 minutes. Ovens vary. I add to the cooking time until it is as brown as desired. It's good barely browned. It's good baked really brown. Okra is just plain good. 

Fried Okra goes well with mashed potatoes. 

Just so you know I'm not just a kook, there are other people in the world who fry okra in the oven. Fried Okra Recipe This lady's recipe would feed a family. I use about a pound or less and it's fine for two people.

Back to the garden, Cannas are starting to bloom. They're on of the most tropical looks for the least care in my climate, you can leave them in the ground. 

Pretoria, or Bengal Tiger. Orange blooms are an extra with 
the beautiful striped leaves. 

Tithonia is just starting to bloom with Cannas.

We've  had this old Canna for decades. I am starting to 
use it more in the garden. The blooms are not attractive.
I just nip them off when one does decide to bloom.

I know that summer is just now here, calendar wise, but some of our tropicals seem late. Porterweed isn't blooming, periwinkles are just coming up in places, Agapanthus hasn't shown a bud yet.  Brugmansias in the Upper Garden are not blooming yet, hardly even a bud.

Angel Trumpets in a more protected area, my oldest plants,
are napping in the daytime heat, incredibly fragrant at night.


  1. Some day I may try okra, but only if someone else who knows what they're doing cooks and serves it. I don't want to buy a bunch and then ruin it, and I'm afraid of slime. I put my two big pots of Cannas in the greenhouse over the winter. We can leave them in the ground, but in a normal summer they don't get enough heat to get big enough to bloom.

    1. I guess slime, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, Alison. I do not notice okra as slimy unless it is boiled until it starts to disintegrate. Don't buy a bunch, try a scant pound and slice and oven fry it.

      Cannas do love heat. Everything tropical would like to winter indoors but sometimes there just isn't room. I started a list of what must come inside and what can go.

      So far I've only put ferns on the hit list, excluding my Bird's Nest. I was going to give up Kalanchoes until I remembered how pretty they were in January.

  2. Your climate seems more tropical than ours in southern California. In addition to high humidity, I'm guessing you get some summer rain too? I love that Justicia betonica, which I've never seen before.

    1. I think the main differences between southern California and our summer climate is our high humidity augmented by the sudden summer rains. Our winters are much colder.

  3. Thanks for the okra cooking tips. I've used it in recipes for Cajun food but have never prepared it by itself. I'm going to try your oven fried idea! Your garden is looking wonderful. Pride of Barbados is beautiful as are your cannas, especially the one you've had for decades. Such beautiful foliage! Your brugmansia is to die for! Spider mites have made mine look not so grand. They're producing flowers but the foliage doesn't look all that great. Hopefully they'll recover as I keep spraying with neem oil.

    1. I hope fried okra turns out for you. Watch it closely toward the end. It's not hard to make it turn out well. Cannas are an old southern mainstay, often just planted in a huge clump to bloom alone. Hope you get the spider mites under control. Great blasts with the hose knocks them off and they are slow to climb back on.

  4. Interesting way to do the okra. I am just now adapting to oven-roasted vegetables and we love them. I haven't planted okra and may be too late to do it. Daily rains kept me from keeping up with anything.

    I think this is a strange gardening year. My tomatoes aren't lush and busy at all. Beans and eggplant look OK. The peppers are setting peppers and they aren't nice bushy plants as usual.

    I always enjoy a stroll around your 'yard'. Lovely and different from what I am used to.

    1. Isn't it interesting how similar farms are in some ways and how different the climate is when you go nearer the equator? Okra is better planted late than too early because it takes heat for it to thrive.

  5. you have a lovely array of tropical greenery that all seems to be standing up to the heat quite well

    1. Thanks, Bec. We get a little sprinkle of rain from time to time to keep it going.

  6. I do wish we would get a cool day in July every couple of years but that definitely does not happen down here. you've got so many wonderful plants in your summer garden. Any suggestions on what acuba likes? Mine is barely growing. I have it in a shady spot with some midday dappled sunlight.

  7. I don't know what Aucuba likes. I know it hates bright sunlight and gets black sunburn easily. This one took years and years to decide to grow. Miss Billie had huge ones that this cutting came from that got afternoon sun and I'm pretty sure she gave them generous doses of horse manure.

  8. Thanks for the info. I have experienced the black leaf problem. I'll try some horse manure.

  9. A cool day in July would be fantastic! We were supposed to get cool air this weekend. I guess we did a bit, but the humidity is still so high it is hard to appreciate it. Your Hymenocallis is a marvel! You have some lovely tropical-looking plants.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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