Veggie of the Week - Arugula
sponsored by Coleman Farms
Arugula is a mustardy, peppery crisp bright green leaf usually thought of as a salad ingredient. If you like tangy salads, then Arugula is worth adding. You can use a little to pep up a mixed salad, or spike it with quite a bit. Arugula can also be used on its own as a salad green, together with cut up sweet oranges, perhaps, and some avocado, feta or nuts.
Arugula also works well in sandwiches - you might think of bread, butter and Arugula, along the lines of a Watercress sandwich - and Arugula mixes well with other traditional sandwich ingredients, such as tomato, lettuce and cheese, or even peanut butter.
Arugula has a place in cooking, in stirr fry, for example, or, chopped, floated on soups at serving time. You might also stirr a generous amount of chopped Arugula into cooked pasta just before serving, along with nuts or olives or slivered dried tomatoes. Prolonged heat destroys the chemicals responsible for Arugula's spicy flavors, so if you prize these, cook it only briefly.
Arugula comes in many shapes and sizes. Some of these have to do with the particular variety, some to do with growing conditions such as temperature and soil humidity. The two main leaf forms are either a spatulate leaf, as in our photo, or a sort of feather-shaped leaf with the frilly edges responsible for the name, arruga meaning 'wrinkle' or 'fold' in Spanish.
There is also a quite distinct plant going under the name of Arugula, the so-called Wild Arugula. The two Arugulas are distinct species, but share a name because they share the same peppery mustardy flavor. Wild Arugula has a small deckle-edged leaf which is fleshier than standard Arugula and often has a more concentrated flavor. Look for this later in the year.
You will sometimes find Arugula with bloom. The flowers are edible, with a rather sweet flavor contrasting with that of the leaves, and they are decorative, adding a bit of show when sprinkled over a salad, for example. Sometimes you can find Arugula with profuse bloom. In this case, the leaves are useful, but generally don't amount to a lot, but the bloom can be used in salads or over soup or dip, for example, or it can be used in the centerpiece.
Available from Coleman Farms (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) at Santa Barbara area Farmers' Markets.