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I think we are finally goring to be getting some cool fall weather. We were a little dryer than most of us like, up until that down pour a week or so ago. Produce in the garden is still going good, some things are winding down but others like the cole crops, carrots, parsnips and beets are are doing good and it looks like it is going to be a good year for them.

Another crop that is still producing in my garden is okra. If you took my advise last May and planted some okra it should still be producing for you also. if you like okra it has been a good year for it. One of my favorite recipes is a vegetable gumbo that you cook in a slow cooker. I actually try to plant all the ingredients in the garden so they are ready to pick at the same time. I have yet to accomplish this in totality, but I am getting closer all the time. I usually quadruple the recipe and can what I don't eat. Because it is just vegetables it is easier to can. Here is the recipe:

1 pound okra, sliced

1 pound tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 cups corn kernels

1 cup vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

In a crock pot, combine vegetable broth, onion, green pepper, celery and garlic.

Cover and cook on low for three to four hours.

Add okra, tomatoes, and corn, along with Tabasco, paprika, parsley, basil, and salt and pepper.

Cover and cook two to three hours longer.

What I like about the vegetable gumbo is you can eat it just the way it is or add what ever meat you want. During the winter I open a jar of the home canned gumbo and put in leftover chicken, turkey, beef or what ever is around for a great meal. I especially like it with fish.

The biggest mistake made by most home gardeners when growing okra is to allow the pods to become too mature before harvesting, this can ruin even the best recipe. Okra should be harvested when seed pods are young, tender and fiber-free. For most varieties this is when pods are about two to four inches in length. Because of the rapid growth rate of okra, harvesting every other day is sometimes necessary to prevent pods from becoming overly mature. Okra does not store well (I know this from experience). If attempted, storage should be in a paper bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator.

A couple of years ago I dehydrated some okra. I ended up with what chewed and tasted like seasoned stick. I will stick with gumbo to preserve my okra from now on.

Happy gardening.

Peter Sutter is a life long gardening enthusiast and a participant in the MU Extension's Callaway County Master Gardener program. Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected]

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