They’re taking a closer look at okra, that wonderfully strange, fuzzy seed pod that helps make gumbo so delicious. If you’ve ever cooked with okra, you’ve seen the sticky goop that seeps out when you cut it. That’s what makes gumbo thicken up, and Food scientist Doug Goff of the University of Windsor told the CBC that it may one day soon keep ice cream smooth and creamy, too.
Goff says that brains in the ice cream stabilizing industry (that’s a real thing) have been feverishly searching a new additive to keep ice cream from getting too stiff in cold storage and that okra ooze might be just what the PhD ordered. They need something new because fracking has been driving up the price of the old thickener.
Guar gum has become the go-to thickening agent for natural gas frackers, and that demand has pushed prices to the point where ice cream (and ice cream sandwich) makers need an alternative. Early results look promising, and the extraction process doesn’t sound particularly difficult: “we just took the okra pods, we squeezed the pods to get the mucilaginous material from it,” says Goff.
Remember those words you spoon a little ice cream or take a lick of a cone on a nice, hot day. It’s being thickened with mucilaginous material squeezed from a furry green pod. Yum!
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons