The Care and Feeding of Pickled Okra

Writer Audrey McDonald Atkins tells us how not to eat the Southern treat.

illustration of pickled okra

Excerpt from the book “They Call Me Orange Juice” by Audrey McDonald Atkins

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to New York City where, while shopping in a bookstore, I had the following exchange with the women at the register. 

“So where’s your accent from?” I am asked by one of the two nice ladies. I get that question a lot when I travel. 

“Alabama,” I say. 

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“Have you heard of pickled okra?” says the other lady, who was previously aloof but is now breathless and excited. “Every time I think of Alabama, I think of pickled okra. My mother got some as a gift. She put it in soup.” 

I must not have hidden my surprise very well — that look of Excuse me. She did what with it? — because lady number one said, “Well, what are you supposed to do with it?” What indeed. 

When I got home from the Big Apple, I was still troubled by the thought of putting pickled okra in soup. Raw okra, sure. Pickled? Blech! Where in the world did she get the idea to put pickled okra in soup?

So I did the only natural thing — I turned to Google. 

I typed in, “What to do with pickled okra” and got tons of recipes to make pickled okra, but none that included it as an ingredient in a larger dish. “Uses for pickled okra” yielded the same result. “How to eat pickled okra” got me a message board, but little else new. No wonder the poor lady was so flummoxed by her gift from an Alabama friend. 

So here’s the skinny for anyone who has a jar of pickled okra and doesn’t know what to do with it — eat it, y’all, just eat it! Eat it right out of the jar like a kosher dill, eat it alongside a tomato sandwich and let a little of the juice run over onto your potato chips, throw that limp old green bean away and swirl it all up in a Bloody Mary, fork some onto a salad and smiggle it through some Ranch dressing. 

But for the love of all that twangs and drawls, y’all, please, please, pretty please don’t put pickled okra in your soup.

Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog

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