Look for young, small pods no more than 4 inches in length (larger pods tend to be tough and stringy). Choose specimens that are firm, unblemished, and bright in color. Pass up any that are limp or bruised.
Wash the pods and pat dry. Trim the stems, taking care not to pierce the pods if using whole. Do not wash until ready to use.
Store unwashed okra in a paper bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator for up to 3 days (overly cold temperatures can speed decay).