Known as “rocket” in Greece, as “roquette” in France, and as “rucola” in Italy, arugula is a tender, crisp, dark leafy green enjoyed across the world in numerous raw and cooked dishes.
Native to the Mediterranean and Southern Europe dating back as far back as ancient Roman times, arugula was often used for culinary and medicinal purposes. British colonists brought arugula to the new world but it was not until the 1990’s that it gained popularity in the culinary world. Arugula is botanically considered an herb but does double duty as a vegetable.
Nutritionally, arugula provides many vitamins and minerals which support strong bones, healthy eyes and blood pressure, and help lower the risk of chronic diseases.
Arugula is a cool-weather dark, leafy green, available in early spring and again in the fall at farmers markets. It is also commonly found in grocery stores year-round. If sold as a bunch, the leaves are generally larger in size. Loose leaves are smaller, baby arugula. Wild arugula has larger, longer leaves that are dark green in color. Their flavor is more intense and is especially good used in cooking.
Choose leaves that are bright green, and look fresh and perky. Avoid those that are yellow, wilted, or damaged.
Fresh arugula likes a cool, somewhat moist storage environment. Wrap arugula leaves gently in a cloth or paper towel and place the bundle into a perforated reusable vegetable bag. Store them in the crisper section of the refrigerator. For best flavor and quality, use the leaves within a few days.
If the refrigeration temperature is too cold or moisture too high, the leaves will wilt, turn yellow and develop brown spots. Discard them if this happens.
photo: Unsplash/Sheri Silver
When ready to use, wash the leaves thoroughly in cool water, then spin dry in a salad spinner. If the root ends are still attached, trim them and discard.
A member of the mustard green and cabbage family, arugula sports a zesty, fresh, peppery flavor. It pairs wonderfully with lighter salad greens, citrus, salty cheeses and olives, roasted vegetables and other common salad components such as cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. Saute it just as you would other greens to serve as a side dish, add it to soups and stews, blend it into pesto or smoothies, or use as a pizza topping or lasagna layer.
Toss arugula with other favorite taco salad ingredients, then top it off with a dollop of this zesty dressing – Creamy Southwestern Dressing
Share your favorite way to have arugula in the comments section below!
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