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Someday, Okra Could Help Make Ice Cream

The slime in okra could make for a natural ice cream stabilizer

smithsonian.com

Okra is a deliciously underrated vegetable—fantastic fried in a crisp coating or doing a bang-up job of thickening soups and stews. But it gets a terrible reputation from the many people who choose to focus on its slight sliminess. 

To be fair, when cooked incorrectly, okra can take on a less-than-ideal slimy quality. But okra also has its advantages and could have a new culinary purpose perfecting the texture of a most unlikely food—ice cream. 

Stabilizers in ice cream are particularly important, as Modern Farmer explains

Ice cream that’s going to be eaten more than a day or so after it’s churned usually needs something to keep its texture steady. Without a stabilizer, ice cream reacts violently to changes in temperature, melting and re-freezing and often forming unpleasantly large ice crystals in the process. Large ice crystals mean icy, crunch ice cream, rather than smooth, creamy ice cream.

Okra, it turns out, can perform this stabilizing task adminirably. A new study found that stabilizers derived from okra fibers “did not affect sensory perception score for flavor, texture, and overall liking of the ice cream.” 

The researchers found that the ideal concentration of the okra stabilizers was at 0.15 percent, a small amount, but enough to prevent the unpleasant ice crystals from forming. The method isn’t in use commercially yet, but the next time you see okra in the farmers market, instead of thinking slime, think ice cream. 

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