This wild leafy green, also known as “rocket,” was used in Mediterranean kitchens for centuries, yet was relatively unknown to American eaters until the 1990s. As part of the mustard family, it has a peppery bite with both sweet and bitter undertones. This complex flavor, along with the green’s versatility, made arugula an instant hit for home cooks and professional chefs.
For thousands of years, arugula was widely used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Along with being used as an anesthetic and as an aphrodisiac, arugula was eaten on a daily basis in Italy and features in traditional recipes from France to the Middle East. For Jewish groups around the Mediterranean region, arugula was the standard bitter green on Passover plates.
Arugula is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, C, and K, as well as folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese. Its high nutritional content is linked to diabetes management, cancer and osteoporosis prevention, and cardiovascular health, as well as improving vision, digestion, and immune response.
After rinsing arugula leaves thoroughly, spread on towels or spin until very dry, then pack loosely in a plastic bag with a layer of paper towels to absorb moisture. Arugula will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about a week.
Arugula is a truly versatile vegetable that can be eaten as a salad green, sauteed like collards or kale, and even used as an herb. While the classic method of serving is with fresh mozzarella and ripe tomatoes, arugula leaves can also be tossed into any stir-fry just before serving, added to pizzas or sandwiches, or substituted for basil in an extra-spicy pesto.
Combine arugula with warm roasted or grilled broccoli—toss until arugula is wilted. top with pine nuts, raisins, and shaved Parmesan cheese, and drizzle with a warm dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and anchovy paste.
Younger arugula balances its peppery flavor with a sweeter taste, while more mature leaves have a bitterness similar to dandelion greens.