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Farm Blog Tuesday August 4 2020 George Washington Carver's Okra and Tomato Soup

Posted on July 31st, 2020 by Judy Lessler

First week for okra!

Okra comes from Africa. It was brought to the new world during the transatlantic slave trade. People involved in the slave trade noticed that a large number of enslaved people died even after surviving the horrors of the Middle Passage. Given their view of black Africans as less than human, these traders brought okra to the Caribbean slave plantations thinking slaves were dying from lack of their usual foods. The actual cause was persistent melancholy--despair and depression so profound that people would just lie down and die.  

George Washington Carver, a famous American, was born a slave, graduated from what became Iowa State University in plant science, and worked for the remainder of this life at Tuskegee University, which was founded by Booker T. Washington. He devoted his career to improving agriculture and the lives of poor farmers in the South.  He taught farmers how to use what is now known as organic agriculture to reclaim depleted farmland and dramatically improve yields. Carver developed non-food uses of agricultural products—paints, oils, ropes, and building materials. He constructed mats, ropes and wear-resistant rugs from okra fibers and dyed then with extracts from Alabama clays. 

He and his colleagues distribute Agricultural Bulletins with advice and recipes. Here is his one of his okra recipes.  

George Washington Carver’s Tomato and Okra Soup (6 or more servings)   

  • 3 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeds removed, chopped fine
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 cups sliced okra
  • 3 Tablespoons rice
  • 3 Tablespoons mince onion
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons green corn (substitute yellow corn kernels or omit)  

Put all the ingredients into the soup pot, and cook gently for two hours; then add two tablespoons butter or sweet drippings, and serve. The bones from roast meat or broiled meat add to its flavor. This recipe is from Bulletin 36, April 1918: HOW TO GROW THE TOMATO; 115 WAYS TO PREPARE IT.