Seasonal Recipe: Heirloom Summer Okra Soup

This recipe comes from Slow Food DC board member, Shelu Patel, and appears in our August 2016 SFDC newsletter. It was submitted as part of her Ark of Taste submission to be part of this year’s international Terra Madre gathering.


  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped flat parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 cups tomatoes or 28-oz can diced tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups waters
  • 2 cups cows horn okra (or any variety of okra), sliced
  • 1 teaspoon flour


In a large dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until butter has melted.

Add onion, parsley, and garlic and cook until translucent and fragrant.

Add sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and thyme and cook, stirring, for a few minutes.

Add vegetable broth, water, and the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes at a simmer.

Add the okra into the soup and cook for another 20 minutes or until tender.

Eat with rice or with hard, crusty bread

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Ark of Taste feature:  Cow’s Horn Okra

Cows Horn Okra is an heirloom variety with a characteristically twisted shape resembling a cow’s horn that grows up to eight feet tall (!) and produces pods twelve to fourteen inches long. This particular heirloom variety may be grown across humid and arid environments while maintaining high productivity with few pests and diseases.


Okra seeds can be directly sown when the ground is warm after several weeks following the last frost. Although okra self-pollinate, the plants produce large yellow flowers frequently visited by bees and insects. Pods come to crop after 75-90 days and are best while still tender, approximately six inches long, for cooking and consumption.


Okra may be eaten year around in fresh summer dishes and pickled for winter snacks. Check out this month’s recipe for just one delicious idea.


Seeds can be saved from year-to-year by harvesting the pods as they begin to turn brown, dry and split along the ribs. The seeds may be removed from the pod, dried indoors and stored for the following year.


Today, okra is not only a staple and symbol of Southern-cuisine’s summer cooking but also possesses a storied past in the United States of America. Okra, an ancient vegetable, originated in southern Ethiopia and spread across Africa. The vegetable is a staple in traditional African diets and cuisine. Okra traveled to mainland North America with the enslaved community of West Africa during early slave trading.

In “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Thomas Jefferson recorded, in 1781, Virginia gardens comprised of okra. Though, Jefferson did not cultivate okra in his Monticello farm home and garden until 1809.

The Cows Horn Okra heirloom variety requires protection because of the vegetable’s unique nature and history that spans the globe from Africa to the Americas while touching important historical events and figures. Often, okra growers are unaware of its roots in the Americas, and the vegetable can be difficult to find. Becoming part of Slow Food’s international Ark of Taste program will help protect this heirloom variety for generations to come, continue its historical legacy, and educate the people everywhere.

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