Originating in the Mediterranean region, arugula is part of the same plant family as broccoli, cabbages and mustards, the Brassicaceae family.
It is known for its unique, almost pepper-like flavor that can be added to most any recipe to add flavor or can be enjoyed alone. Some would argue that it has a mustard-like flavor, as well. I guess it depends on each person’s tastes. Other aliases for this green are derived from English, French, Italian, and Turkish languages, which include rocket, roquette, rucola, rughetta, or roka. The “younger” leaf is usually what is sold in grocery stores and used in restaurants. The mature leaves have a more pungent and bitter flavor.
While sitting in the leafy green category, arugula packs a lot of nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and calcium. It also possesses antioxidant beta-carotene. A cup of arugula contains 5 calories. That being said, it’s safe to say that arugula is light on calories but has a punch of nutrients and flavor, so don’t let this small leaf fool you! Arugula is often compared to watercress in taste being that both these greens have peppery taste and have similar leaf size.
Arugula has become a readily available green in stores. Most arugula that is sold in grocery stores comes in the plastic salad bag mixes or boxes. I’ve also seen it mixed into the bulk containers of salad green mix. Within the salad bags or plastic boxes I’ve seen it either in a salad mix or by itself.
If you are buying arugula by the bunch or bulk, washing before preparing is necessary. It generally can store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for 3-4 days, any longer than that then you might notice the leaves becoming limp or producing that slimy texture. I would bet this also depends on what temperature you keep the crisper and what state you bought the greens in. Also, you want to wash the greens before serving, not before storing, to postpone the spoiling process.
Now that you know what arugula is and how to store it you want to know how to use it, right? Using arugula is simple; it can be used in pretty much any place a leafy green can be used in a dish. For instance, in pasta dishes, atop a pizza, nestled between cheeses on a sandwich, in a salad, in pesto, the options are endless. Try pairing arugula with complementary flavors such as sweet pears or salty prosciutto. For example, a few restaurants I have been to feature an extra-virgin olive oil pizza topped with Gorgonzola cheese, pears, prosciutto and arugula. This way you get savory flavors of the cheese paired with a sweet hint from the pairs, and a salty bit from the prosciutto, followed by a subtle “kick” of the arugula. I hope that you find arugula to be very versatile in its uses, emphasize its flavor and you won’t be disappointed!
Below are a few examples of recipes that incorporate arugula:
Peach, blue cheese, almond and arugula salad:
Arugula Walnut Pasta
Watermelon, Arugula, and Feta Quinoa Salad:
Brown Butter Tortelli
Zanteson, L. (2011, May). The rocket: spicy, green arugula takes off. Environmental Nutrition, 34(5), 8. Retrieved from:
Cornell University. Arugula. Cornell University. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene3693.html. Published 2006. Accessed November 4, 2013.
USDA. Basic Report: 11959, Arugula, raw. USDA: Agricultural Research Services. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3615?man=&lfacet=&count=&max=&qlookup=&offset=&sort=&format=Abridged&reportfmt=other&rptfrm=&ndbno=&nutrient1=&nutrient2=&nutrient3=&subset=&totCount=&measureby=&_action_show=Apply+Changes&Qv=1&Q6830=1.0&Q6831=1. Accessed on November 4, 2013.
Cami Martin is a junior at Metropolitan State University of Denver, majoring in Human Nutrition-Dietetics. Cami is passionate about childhood nutrition and wishes to impact this area during her journeys. In her free time, she escapes to the mountains near Denver to engage in outdoor activities. She also enjoys volunteering within the community and cooking.