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5 Essentials for Easy Deep South Dinners

Fresh Vegetables

Garden-fresh veggies are the glue that holds Deep South cuisine together. Whether they're served by themselves straight from the garden or added to a recipe, vegetables bring great color and taste to your dish, and several (including the previously-mentioned corn) have become iconic symbols of southern cooking.

Okra, for example, isn't common in other regions of the United States, but it's a must in the Deep South. First cultivated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago, okra likely came to the Southern states in the 18th century from West Africa during the slave trade. You can sauté it, fry it, pickle it or use it to thicken soups, and it's a key component of gumbo. If you've never sampled okra, try this slow-cooker recipe for Creole Chicken and Vegetables, but definitely use fresh okra when it's in season in place of the frozen okra in the ingredients list.

Tomatoes are popular in the Deep South, both in their ripened red form and when they're still green. Fried green tomatoes are one of the most recognizable Southern dishes, made especially famous through Alabama native Fannie Flagg's novel (and subsequent movie) "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café." They're easy to make and are a great accompaniment for some of the recipes we've highlighted here. Many other veggies grace Southern tables, too, including cucumbers, squash, zucchini, turnip and collard greens and runner beans.

Now y'all get cookin'!