Arugula

A is for Arugula (or R for Rocket)

Last week was artichokes, this week, I feel the need to downsize and talk about something that’s a little smaller and has several different names.


Nutritional low-down

This cruciferous little mama is infamously known for it’s antioxidants and potent anti-cancer qualities (some, like Harvard Medical School’s Diana Post say this isn’t scientifically proven).

The keyword there is little, as arugula comes with huge flavor in small doses – so while you may not cure leukemia with one bite, it remains a healthy vegetable.

In addition, Produce for Better Health notes that arugula is also low fat, cholesterol free, very low sodium, good source of folate and calcium, excellent source of vitamins A and C.

Based on an average serving of arugula, here are the major nutritional gains:

  • Vitamin A – Good for those night readers, vitamin A promotes good vision in low light, in addition to maintaining healthy teeth, skin and soft tissue. This vitamin is predominantly found in either animal products or beta carotene-packed leafy greens.
    • I would note that arugula has high vitamin K as well, but apparently most leafy green vegetables and oils flaunt a high vitamin K value.
  • Chlorophyll– if you combine Mr. Clean with the Energizer Bunny, that’s comparable to what chlorophyll apparently does for our blood — leaves it clean and energized by bringing epic amounts of oxygen to all parts of body, as well as anti-germ environments to prevent bacteria from camping out. Other sources report that chorophyll can help treat bad breath and support healthy skin.

What’s in a name?

A is for ArugulaArugula is also known as rocket, roquette, rugula and rucolarocket, or roquette.

Tis the season

Arugula tends to grow year round, so you’re in luck!

Picking a good bunch

  • Color: Leaves should be crisp and dark green with stems and roots still attached. Pass on any bunches that have yellow tinges or the leaves look slimy. 
  • Does size matter? Yes! Bittman notes in his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian that baby arugula tends to be much milder than its fuller-leafed counterpart. So if you’re looking for something less spicy than opt for the wee-sized arugula bunches.

Storage

Arugula is a fragile and spoils quickly, so make sure to pick it up within a day or two of preparing it, otherwise you’ll risk some fridge rot. In the event that you want to extend the life of this peppery green, Bittman later notes:

Dunk the stem end in a glass half full of water and wrap the whole thing, glass and all, in a plastic bag. Store this cool tropical mini-environment in the fridge.

Preppin’ it

Again, arugula leaves is on the fragile side so you’ll want to make sure you wait just before using it to prep the bunch. In Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day, he advises:

  1. Remove the stems – while those leaves are pretty frail, stems can be snapped off by hand.
  2. Wash arugula leaves in a bowl of cold water, changing the water several times, until clean, and then let it either air dry, use a salad spinner (no thanks), or blot dry any remaining moisture with a tea towel.
  3. Keep leaves whole or tear them by hand.

Cooking methods

According to just about everyone, arugula has a strong, peppery flavor, which is far more roaring when wild. Arugula is often a nice kickinthepants to any salad, bed of grilled vegetables (as it will slightly wilt while absorbing the grilling juices) or atop a bowl of soup, or something coming out of the oven — like pizza.

Margie King, in her related post, “Arugula is a nutritional rock star,” over on Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner notes that arugula can pinch hit for spinach in many recipes and basil in several pesto sauces.

To re-cap

Anyone who mocks greens as rabbit food clearly hasn’t had this flavorful, peppery green served up in the right way. Experiment with it and swap it out for some of your expected greens to see how it changes the flavor.