Okra and the Triangle Trade

By Ellen Polites

-Okra is originally native to Africa.

-The slaves brought on the triangle trade held onto the seeds and transported them to the New World.

-Okra also traveled North from Africa to the Middle East and India.

-A traditional Indian recipe for okra (gumbs) is:

"Gumbs--A West India Dish"
Gather young pods of ocra, wash them clean, and put them in a pan with a little water, wald tne pepper, stew them till tender, and serve them with melted butter. Thye are very nutricious and easy of digestion."
---The Virginia House-wife, Mary Randolph (facsimile 1824 edition), with Historical Notes and Commentaries by Karen Hess [Univeristy of South Carolina Press:Columbia SC] 1984 (p. 96)

-Okra became widely popular in the New World, and slaves were forced to grow it on plantations.

-Soup was one of the more popular ways to eat it in America. An example recipe of this would be:

"Ocra Soup"
Get two double handsful of young ochra, wash and slice it thin, add two onions choppped fine, put it into a gallon of water at a very early hour in an earthen pipkin, or very nice iron pot: it must be kept steadily simmering, but not boiling: put in pepper and salt. At 12 o'clock, put in a handful of Lima beans, at half past one o'clock, add three young cimlins cleaned and cut in small pieces, a fowl, or knuckle of veal, a bit of bacon or pork that has been boiled, and six tomatats, with the skin taken off when nearly done; thicken with a spoonful of butter, mixed with one of flour. Have rice boiled to eat with it."
---ibid, (p. 34-5)

-Okra also spread to other areas of the world through trade that wasn't the triangle trade. Here is a Lebanese dish:

"Yakhnat al-Bamiya (Okra stew)
This is a Lebanese dish, but also popular in Egypt. Okra...is a mucilaginous vegetable in the Malvacaea family, as is cotton. Both Ethiopia and West Africa have been proposed as its place of origin and its date of arrival in the Mediterranean is not known. The cytotaxonomy of okra is so confused that it is possible the plant has an Asian origin. Lebanese and Palestinian cooks favor the baby okra, small and tender, about the size of the last joint on your little finger...The meatless version of this stew, called bamiya, is made with okra, tomatoes, onions, lots of garlic, and lemon juice. In Damascus they would also add lots of fresh coriander, while in Homs and Aleppo the okra would be cooked with copius quantities of garlic, pomegranate molasses, and tomato juice. Serve with rice pilaf and khubz arabi (Arabic flatbread or pita bread)."
---A Mediterranean Feast, Clifford A. Wright [William Morrow:New York] 1999 (p. 128)

-Okra being brought over by slaves just added to another way that they could be utilized as slaves. It provided a crop that they knew how to grow and that worked in the New World environment.

Sources:

"The Food Timeline." The Food Timeline--history Notes: Muffins to Yogurt. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.

"Okra-homa|Al Jazeera America." Okra-homa: As the Climate Warms, Midwest Farmers Plant Southern Crops | Al Jazeera America. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.

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