I was editing photos to write about okra which is, after all, an important vegetable in Southeast Asian cooking. I combed through my hard drive looking for the best okra photos I have. Some photos are better than others but the okra itself is never pretty. Not from any angle. And I recalled seeing an okra flower for the first time — so beautiful you’d never think it would turn into the ugly okra pod.
On March 2, 2019, our third day in Saigon, Alex and I attended a cooking class in Cu Chi. The cooking school has its own farm and, during a tour of the farm, I had my first glimpse of an okra flower.
Under the heat of the noonday sun, I normally wouldn’t bother with a flower. We were there, after all, for the cooking lessons, and the farm tour was to gather herbs and vegetables that we were going to use for cooking. Everyone else was busy inspecting and exclaiming words of admiration for the oversized okra pods. Yet, there I was framing the most perfect-looking flower to shoot a photo.
A flower didn’t fit into the cooking agenda at all. But it wasn’t just any flower. Its stunning beauty already commanded more than a passing glance. The pale yellow petals looked faintly greenish which, I presumed, was from the reflection of the leaves around them. The deep crimson center made a stark contrast with the color of the petals. And from that crimson well rose the column that held the stamens heavy with pollen grains.
What amazed me the most was the fact that it was an okra flower. How could anything so captivatingly beautiful give birth to the ugly okra pod — a vegetable that makes my daughters cringe and turn away in disgust?
Well, as unattractive the vegetable might be, I will still write about it. Tomorrow. I already spent too much time singing praises to the okra flower.
Updated from a post originally published in August 2019