June is National Dairy Month. Celebrating our dairy farmers and the fantastic products we receive from them is a great reminder to make sure we include at least three servings of dairy each day. Most of the time, we consume dairy products in the form of milk, yogurt or cheese. These delicious products provide us with calcium, potassium and vitamin D – all of which are important for building strong bones and helping to fuel our bodies for everyday functions.
While many Americans are able to consume dairy and easily obtain the critical nutrients that dairy products supply, others prefer to avoid dairy products or have an intolerance to them. Luckily there are a bounty of other plant-based options that can provide the same nutrients along with fiber and protein.
Okra is a classically southern vegetable that is a great source of potassium, calcium and fiber. Unfortunately, okra doesn’t usually get the credit it deserves when it comes to being a good source of calcium; however, it has more calcium than broccoli per serving! Other good plant-based sources of calcium include, collard greens, blackberries, kale, butternut squash, fortified orange juice, chia seeds, almond butter, sweet potatoes and tofu.
During the hot months of summer, okra is one of the few vegetable crops that thrives. Many gardeners find themselves with an abundance of okra on the, sometimes, 8 to 10-foot tall plants that tower majestically over the heat-stressed tomato and pepper plants.
In the Kitchen Garden Cooking School Harvest Series classes, TAFB staff and volunteers aim to provide guidance on what to do with the excess produce coming out of the garden throughout the year. Each monthly class involves instruction on how to grow vegetable crops successfully, nutrition education on the featured produce item, and demonstrations and taste-testing of delicious ways to prepare the featured item.
In order to encourage healthy food choices, we believe it is critical to create meals that are not only nutritious and cost-effective, but that can easily be enjoyed.
One of the okra dishes that we featured in our Harvest Series class was Cajun Baked Okra. This recipe is simple, fresh and flavorful. It is full of calcium, potassium and fiber from okra picked right out of the garden!
Cajun Baked Okra Recipe
- 1 pound okra
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Rinse okra and pat dry.
3. In small bowl, mix salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and cumin.
In zip lock bag, add okra, olive oil, lemon juice and spices. Shake to coat okra with spices.
4. Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
5. Lay okra on baking sheet in single layer.
6. Roast in oven for 10 minutes.
7. With a spatula, turn okra on other side and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Try lime juice instead of lemon juice for a different twist.
- Add the zest of half a lemon for a stronger flavor.
- Canola oil may be used instead of olive oil.
- Serve with Cajun-style grilled or baked shrimp.
As you celebrate National Dairy Month, don’t forget your calcium-rich fruits and vegetables. For more information about Kitchen Garden Cooking School workshops and other classes offered by TAFB’s Community Garden Program, please visit tarrantareafoodbank.eventbrite.com.
By Becca Knutson
Community Garden Coordinator, Tarrant Area Food Bank