Plant a Gumbo Garden for Mardi Gras

comments (0) January 22nd, 2018

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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A key ingredient in gumbo, okra grows on tall plants that feature beautiful blossoms.Click To Enlarge

A key ingredient in gumbo, okra grows on tall plants that feature beautiful blossoms.

Photo: Jodi Torpey

The big day for Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year is February 13, but parades and other events start lining up at the end of January. Even if you can't head to Louisiana for the celebration, you can still enjoy a classic Mardi Gras dish with herbs and vegetables grown in your own vegetable garden.

Gumbo is a uniquely New Orleans thick, stew-like soup that uses readily available ingredients. Each recipe is as individual as the cook who tosses together the perfect combination of vegetables, herbs and spices and lets flavors mingle with a long simmer. Okra is key to gumbo, especially when cooked up with shrimp, crab, ham, sausage, chicken and whatever else may be on hand.

If you'd like to plant a special gumbo garden, here are the traditional fruits, vegetables and herbs you can plant and grow. Because some of the herbs and spices are dried, you may need to wait for the next Mardi Gras for a complete home-grown, home-made batch.

Most gumbo recipes include combinations of these common and classic ingredients:

  • Small white or green onions
  • Okra
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Green peppers
  • Paprika peppers (dried and ground)
  • Assorted herbs like parsley, thyme, chervil, chives, oregano and tarragon

Dried sassafras leaves, called filé powder, are sprinkled into the gumbo just before serving.

Look through any New Orleans or Southern cookbooks and search recipes online for the gumbo recipe that suits your taste.

A basic recipe consists of heating oil in a heavy pot, adding flour to make a dark-colored roux, then stirring in the vegetables and herbs, water or broth, and finishing with the okra, sausage and other ingredients. The longer it simmers, the better.

If you have a favorite gumbo recipe, I'd love to try it. Please share it here.

posted in: okra, gumbo