A culinary classic and Mediterranean native, arugula, which is also known as Italian cress, rocket, roquette and rugula, is a member of the mustard family. Throughout European history it has been prized for its leaves, a favorite in Italian cuisine and its seeds used as a flavoring for vinegars, oils and sauces in Greek, Roman and even Far Eastern cultures. Usually collected wild all over the Mediterranean, arugula was not cultivated on a large scale before the 1990s. Today it is popular and readily available world-wide as well as grown along with other “greens” in home gardens.
Arugula is a fast growing annual which is very useful and easy care. Resembling radish leaves in appearance and flavor, it has spoon-shaped young leaves that become more broadly lobed as they grow. Arugula also produces an erect raceme with a lot of prized four-petaled white edible flowers tinged with violet in the heat of the summer. Growing best in cool and consistently moist soil in spring and fall, arugula can be sown outside 3-4 weeks before the last frost, but once established keep it well watered and fertilize regularly. A 3’x3’ bed in a sunny location is enough for the average family but the seeds must be planted at 2 week intervals for a constant harvest. It is also quite easy to grow in pots or small window boxes. Arugula is one herb you want to keep cutting with scissors once the leaves are 3” high for baby cut-and-come-again greens that are tender. The leaves are very perishable and should be tightly wrapped in a plastic bag and refrigerated for no more than a couple days. They also hold a tremendous amount of grit, so thoroughly wash before use.
Called the culinary chameleon, arugula is at times assertive, yet often subtly spicy with a taste that is nutty and peppery at the same time. It is often combined with raw ingredients but it is also equally tasty in cooked dishes. The young leaves are delicately sweet with a buttery-smooth texture and offer the greatest versatility. They are indispensable in meslun and mixed salad greens, but can also season a variety of foods including dressings, pesto, stir-fries, pasta, pizza and signature sandwiches. They also compliment the strong flavor of nuts, roasted peppers and strong cheeses plus add tang to gazpacho. The older leaves are more assertive and can be used as a substitute for chard or tame it in soups and stews. Arugula flowers taste like a delicate blend of sesame and almond and make great garnishes for salads, but also puddings, vegetables or fruit dishes. Very low in calories and high in vitamins A and C plus a rich source of iron, arugula is reputed to help cleanse the body of pollutants, so enjoy a second serving!!!
Arugula is used as a food plant by the larvae
of some butterflies and moths and its flowers also attract
beneficial insects to the garden,
so after enjoying it in your spring salads
leave some in the garden for its summer visitors.
1/4c toasted walnuts
3 garlic cloves
2c arugula leaves
2Tbs Italian parsley
1/2c olive oil
1/2c grated Parmesan cheese
Add walnuts, garlic, arugula and parsley food processor. While running, slowly add oil until it forms a smooth puree. Transfer to mixing bowl and add cheese, salt and pepper, then mix well.
18 diagonal baguette bread slices
6Tbs chopped toasted walnuts
3oz Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
3Tbs finely chopped arugula leaves
Spread butter on each baguette and arrange on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove and cool. Combine walnuts, cheese and chopped arugula, then spread mixture on each baguette and season with freshly ground pepper. Bake until cheese melts and serve garnished with arugula leaves.
4 baby artichokes
8 sun-dried tomatoes
2Tbs olive oil
3 minced garlic cloves
1-12” baked pizza shell
8oz Mozzarella cheese
10 pitted olives
1tsp fresh oregano
1c young arugula leaves
1/4c grated Asiago cheese
Simmer artichokes for 10 mins. Coarsely chop tomatoes and reconstitute in warm water for 10 mins. Mix olive oil and garlic and spread on crust, then top with mozzarella, artichokes, tomatoes, olives and oregano. Bake at 500 for 7-10 mins or until cheese is melted. Top with arugula and Asiago cheese and return to oven for 2 more mins. to wilt arugula and melt cheese.
". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."