Arugula (Eruca sativa), a member of the Brassica family, is a tender leafy green — wonderful as a salad addition but is also excellent in cooked dishes such as pastas and sautés, and as a bed for grilled, seared, or roasted seafood and meats. It is a spicy little leaf, which some describe as bitter and others characterize as having a "peppery-mustardy" flavour.
Arugula's deliciously pungent flavour may come as a surprise if you've never tasted it — it packs a lot more zip than most other greens. And if you are familiar with this peppery, nutty leaf, it's likely you know how much depth and character it brings to any salad, whether alone or mixed with other greens. Baby arugula is a label you'll often see for young, mild and tender leaves that are a lighter shade of green and don't yet have the pronounced lobes of mature arugula. Baby arugula is perfect for salad. More mature arugula will be a darker shade of green and have lobed leaves. The darker the green, the stronger the flavour. Look for a smooth and even colouring. Wild arugula is much more peppery than most cultivated leaves.
- Other Names
- Gharghir (Middle East), rocket or rocket salad (Britain), roquette (France), rucola or rugola (Italy)
- Arugula is available year-round, but is more plentiful in late summer. When grown in very hot weather, arugula will have a strong biting taste and will be extra vulnerable to spoilage.
- Choose arugula based on what you plan to do with it. For salads in which arugula is the main green, look for the youngest and mildest leaves available; they won't have the pronounced lobes of older arugula and will be a lighter shade of green. Sometimes you'll find them packaged as baby arugula.
- Avoid arugula with yellowed or limp leaves. Avoid any arugula with a strong, unpleasant odour.
- When you get these leaves home, drop them in a bowl of cool water to both rehydrate and wash them. Spin them dry and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge. Be sure the leaves are as dry as possible and don't overstuff the bag. A good trick for keeping young greens fresh is to fill the bag no more than half full, then fill the rest of the bag with air (like a balloon) and tie it off, keeping the air inside with the greens.
- Like most salad greens, Arugula is very low in calories and is high in vitamins A and C, folate, calcium, and magnesium. A ½ cup serving is two calories
Cut off and discard the stems. Discard any yellowed or bruised leaves.
Place the leaves in a large bowl of cold water and swish around vigorously to release the sandy soil the arugula was grown in.
Gently lift the leaves out of the water. Drain and spread out on paper or cloth towels to dry.
Purée leaves with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and grated hard cheese to make a pesto that can be used as a dip for crudités, a pasta sauce, or a sandwich spread.
Serve in a salad with roasted beets and baked goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.
Add arugula to sandwiches.
Grow Arugula At Home
Arugula is one of those great, simple greens to grow at home. Sow the seeds in a sunny location in succession plantings (approximately every 20 to 30 days) from early spring to autumn.
Arugula performs best in spring to early summer. After that time, plant it under the shade of an "airy" tree (not dense shade), or under shade cloth. It is not fussy at all, although too much drought and summer heat will cause the leaves to be smaller and more "peppery".
This plant does go to "seed" fairly quickly. But use the flowers in your salads and collect seeds for future plantings. And if you make your "succession" plantings, then the new plants will be ready as the older plants are going to seed.
To harvest simply pick the young leaves and the plant will keep generating new ones for months. Older leaves are a bit tougher and hotter.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Herbs
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