"It is the principal ingredient in most of the soops, and pepper-pots, made in America; dishes frequently used in those parts of the world"
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Okra, related to the hibiscus and a member of the mallow family, is native to tropical Africa or Asia--and was cultivated by the Egyptians in the 12 century AD. It slowly traveled south into the central lands of Africa; north and west to Mediterranean lands and ultimately to the Balkans; and east to the subcontinent of India.
It arrived in the United States in the 18th century with the slave trade, on a ship filled with Bantu tribes people. In no time at all it became a cornerstone in southern cooking, Texan cuisine, and perhaps most especially the distinctive Cajun cooking of Louisiana.
It still grows wild in Ethiopia and Sudan, just as it did in prehistoric times. Its plants, related to cotton, were carried to India and Egypt where they are still used in cooking oil and as a coffee substitute.
Today okra is used commercially as a hidden ingredient: it is the mucilage in catsup that makes it so hard to get out of the bottle.
Okay, here's the whole stupid "Song to Okra" by Roy Blount, Jr.: