Homemade "Coffee"

My Instagram post that inspired me to write about our fig leaf-sumac tea was actually the one I wrote about making okra coffee. That spurred a lively discussion on IG, so I thought I should definitely do a blog about it as well! So...

We make coffee from our okra! The best name I've gotten so far is a toss-up between okra-joe, and [cup of] joe-kra – I lean towards the second, partly because the short version (joe-kra) gives a sense of it not actually being coffee :-)

This beverage is not as simple as the fig-sumac tea, but it's pretty rewarding to drink, I think! A coffee-like drink, without digging dozens (if not hundreds) of dandelion or chicory roots – just gathering the accidental product of your garden! If you've ever grown okra, you know that no matter how hard you try, some of those pods just sneak past you, and you don't find them until they're too large and fibery to eat. Now, you can say you meant to do that, you were saving them for joekra! Honestly, I usually grow 2 varieties of okra – Burgundy Red for eating (the best, in my opinion) and something big, just for seeds. I don't harvest these green at all, I just leave them until they're drying on the stalk. I can't wait until fall, of course, the pods will start splitting open and dropping their seeds, but I can just go through every so often (1-2 weeks) and cut all the dried pods and store them. There's actually a variety of okra called Coffee Okra, I believe it's available from Baker Creed Seeds, and it is huge!! Like, a foot long – but it's very long-season, I don't believe it's really possible to grow it north of the Gulf Coast.

So – to make the “coffee”, I just collect the seeds (Malachi is my special okra-pod-sheller), and then put them in my gas oven on a cookie/pizza pan for a day or two to make sure they're fully dried so that they store well. You could also use a solar dehydrator, or an electric one, but if you do this, you should set aside any seed you may want to plant next year beforehand, in case these drying methods get too hot. Then, I generally just jar them, and save them for later – and later, I prep them for Joe-kra like this...

First, roast the seeds. I have not found very specific directions on exactly how to do this – the only real info I can find is generally from the 1840's to 1860's or thereabouts, or on modern blogs, and they all basically say to roast it until it is dark, or smells aromatic, or starts popping, or don't burn it, or burn it – roast until blackened and all popped. Not real clear guidance. So, I've experimented a little and decided that the longer and slower the better. If you use high heat, the okra will quickly start popping, all over the kitchen, and turn black. It does smell almost exactly like popcorn, so beware if you have kids around that may be suddenly expectant :-) When I've roasted it this way, it seems to actually have a lighter flavor, and make a coffee that is more like tea with cream. It is completely opaque and creamy-tan, and while a good beverage in it's own right, you'd never mistake it for coffee. I now roast the seeds over very low heat – so low that nothing happens unless I put a lid on, and with the lid I only hear a pop every few minutes. Every time I hear a seed pop I shake the pan, and try to go at least 20 minutes, maybe even 25-30 (I've never actually timed it). I actually just found a video online about a Chinese farmer that heard about doing this and started roasting his okra seeds, and it briefly mentioned roasting over slow heat for an hour, so it's not just me :-)

Once the seeds are roasted, I just grind them in my coffee grinder, and use them in the French Press. I use twice as much, or close to that, as I would actual coffee grounds – although I should mention that I like very strong coffee! My philosophy is that you can always dilute too-strong coffee, but you just can't strengthen it if it's too weak. I have not found any issues with length of brew-time - if there are any Joe-kra connoisseurs out there, I'd love to hear what you've found, but I just give it plenty of time (10-20 minutes), and stir several times.

If any of yall have done this, I'd love to hear about it, or if you know of any other natural beverages like this, or the sumac-fig leaf tea, I'd love to add more to my repertoire. It's approaching “hot cup of something” season, and I'm excited to have options that come entirely from our garden, fields, or woods!

Comments

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
To help us prevent spam, please prove you're human by typing the words you see here.