I have to admit, the first year I grew arugula, I rejected it as a foul tasting weed, decided to ignore it and left it to go to seed.
Good thing. Being a prolific self-seeder, it came back, year after year, until finally, my taste buds developed a liking for leafy greens and I gave in to arugula’s charms.
I would describe the taste of it as pungent, peppery, and kind of nutty.
Arugula (Brassicaceae Eruca Sativa) is part of the Brassicaceae family, aka cruciferous vegetables. This family of super-veggies includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and mustard greens and are some of the most health promoting and cancer inhibiting foods on the planet.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF ARUGULA
Arugula is a source of the following:
– phytochemicals (such as indoles, thiocyanates, sulforaphane, isothiocyanates which protect against cancer)
– folic acid
– Vitamins A, C, and K (Vitamin K aids in bone health and preventing Alzheimers)
– an array of minerals including Iron and Copper
– B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, B-6, and pantothenic acid
– glucosinolates – which studies show may reduce the risk of developing lung, colorectal, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer (http://www.chatelaine.com/health/diet/five-detoxifying-benefits-of-arugula-and-a-rejuvenating-salad-recipe/)
– absorbable calcium
I’ve read that cruciferous veggies interfere with thyroid function and being diagnosed as slightly hypothyroid myself this was a concern since I don’t want to miss out on all the fantastic health benefits of cruciferous veggies. But I discovered that it is a myth that cruciferous veggies are bad for the thyroid. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, “…no human study has demonstrated a deficiency in thyroid function from consuming cruciferous vegetables….Whether you have normal thyroid function or hypothyroidism, there is no benefit for you to avoid or restrict your intake of cruciferous vegetables.” (http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/cruciferous_vegetables_and_thyroid.aspx)
Like I said, its kind of a weed. And being easy to grow, I grow it.
There are different varieties of arugula and some have leaves that look slightly different from mine. Some have more spindly leaves and some have fatter leaves.
Arugula will tolerate drier soil than some other leafy greens (such as mesclun greens which don’t like dry soil). But it may still bolt in hot weather. In my old garden, it would self sow year after year. Some varieties do better in the heat and some do better in cooler weather. Choose your seeds accordingly.
Since I left my arugula collection behind at my old house, I got my new seeds from a lovely lady who takes one of my fitness classes. She and her husband proudly collect and distribute their arugula seeds annually.
It can be resown every 3 weeks. As with all leafy greens, the baby leaves are milder than older leaves. It will taste milder in the spring than it will when picked in hot weather.
Sow seeds in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked and danger of hard frost has passed (some varieties tolerate mild frost). Grow in full sun to partial shade.
HOW TO EAT ARUGULA
It can be used pretty much the same way as other leafy greens: chopped and added to sauces and pasta dishes. Used in sandwiches. Served raw in salads.
One of the benefits of eating it raw is that the chlorophyll is preserved. Chlorophyll can help prevent damage to the liver and DNA from the aflatoxins that are sometimes produced by the mould often found in corn and peanuts (http://www.chatelaine.com/health/diet/five-detoxifying-benefits-of-arugula-and-a-rejuvenating-salad-recipe/)
I picked some fresh and used it in this recipe for Baked Falafel and Cucumber Noodle Salad with Mint Tahini Dressing from onegreenplanet.org. A delicious combo!
Here are some more arugula recipes for you to enjoy:
Strawberry Arugula Salad with Sweet Lime Vinaigrette from foodnetwork.com (this has parmesan which can easily be left out by vegans)
Arugula Pesto Recipe from foodnetwork.com (another recipe with parmesan – vegans can substitute the same amount of raw cashews processed in the blender into a coarse paste)
Roasted Fingerling Potato and Tomato Salad with Green Beans and Arugula from marthastewart.com
Arugula Salad with Figs Pine Nuts and Radicchio from marthstewart.com
http://www.chatelaine.com/health/diet/five-detoxifying-benefits-of-arugula-and-a-rejuvenating-salad-recipe/ by Julie Daniluk, RHN (nutritionist)
Heaney RP, Weaver CM, Hinders SM, Martin B, Packard PT. Absorbability of Calcium from Brassica Vegetables: Broccoli, Bok Choy, and Kale. J Food Sci. 1993; 58(6): 1378-1380.