I've often seen recipes that call for okra, but I have not been able to find it in any Canadian stores. What is it? What might I substitute for it? —S.M., Peace River, Alberta
Okra is a vegetable that is popular in the southern United States, where it is often added to soups and stews. It has grayish-green ridged pods that contain numerous small edible seeds. When okra is sliced, it releases a substance that naturally thickens any liquid it is cooked in. Although the taste and texture of okra is unique, some folks think its mild flavor resembles that of green beans or eggplant. Those two vegetables may be substituted for okra in many soups and stews. However, without okra's natural thickening properties, cornstarch or flour may also have to be added.