Our school cafeterias are giving students the opportunity to enjoy nutritious food grown locally. The Farm Fresh Friday and Harvest of the Month programs take place to support healthy lifestyle habits and teach students about agriculture and the local farms their foods come from.
Farm Fresh Friday
The Texas Department of Agriculture created the Farm Fresh Friday initiative to connect Texans all across our state to agriculture and our local farmers and ranchers. The Farm Fresh goal is to increase awareness of the integral role agriculture plays in our lives and improving wellness in our community. Every Friday, our cafeterias will feature a Texas-grown menu item.
When students make the Farm Fresh choice they support the hardworking producers across our state and help improve the local economy.
Harvest of the Month
Each month a different locally grown fruit or vegetable option is available in our cafeterias. Agricultural fact sheets teach students about the products and farms of Texas. We hope to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables that students are eating.
Harvest of the Month – okra
Enjoy fresh Texas Okra in your cafeteria on Wednesday, August 28th.
Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock. It is a tall annual tropical herb cultivated for its edible green seed pod. It has heart shaped leaves, and large, yellow, hibiscus-like flowers. The seed pods are 3 - 10 inches long, tapering, usually with ribs down its length. These tender, unripe seed pods are used as a vegetable, and have a unique texture and sweet flavor. The pods, when cut, exude a thick, sticky juice that is used to thicken stews, and have a flavor somewhat like a cross between asparagus and eggplant.
Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia, and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians by the 12th century B.C. Its cultivation spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The seed pods were eaten cooked, and the seeds were toasted and ground, used as a coffee substitute.
Okra came to the Caribbean and the U.S. in the 1700s, probably brought by slaves from West Africa, and was introduced to Western Europe soon after. In Louisiana, the Créoles learned from slaves the use of okra (gumbo) to thicken soups and it is now an essential in Créole Gumbo. Okra is commonly associated in Southern, Creole, and Cajun cooking since it was initially introduced into the United States in its southern region. It grows well in the southern United States where there is little frost.
Due to increased interest in American regional foods, these bright green, tender pods have gained more respect as a vegetable in the U.S., aside from its use as a thickener.
Okra is excellent sautéed or fried. Very young, tender pods can be sliced, dipped in egg, breaded with corn meal and fried. Sauté with corn kernels, onion and sweet peppers. Okra can also be steamed, baked, pickled, boiled or stewed. Because of its similar flavor, it can be used in place of eggplant in many recipes. Use it raw in salads. Avoid long cooking times unless you are making soups, stews or gumbo.
- Okra is a good source of vitamins C, A, and B complex vitamins.
- They are high in iron and calcium.
- Okra is low in calories, a good source of dietary fiber, and is fat-free.