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A lot of people are unaware of what arugula is. Even those who frequently indulge in fresh salad are sometimes oblivious that arugula is already included in what they are eating. What is arugula?
Arugula is a type of herb which has a rich green color. This is also known to belong in the same family as mustard. Its scientific name is Eruca sativa but in other parts of the world, among the common names for it include, roquette, rucola, rugula, rocket or Italian cress.
Green, leafy and distinct, arugula is a wonderful and refreshing addition to any meal you come up with. Admittedly, this ingredient might not be for everyone –– when not cooked well, this can leave quite the bitter taste in one’s mouth. But for those who enjoy the vibrance it can offer, arugula can easily find a home in any kitchen’s vegetable drawer.
This herb grows as a plant, just like lettuce. The leaves are picked once it has already achieved its rich green hue. The size of mature leaves ranges from about 3 to 8 inches.
The taste of the leaves is a combination of hot and peppery flavor. The more mature leaves have more intense flavor. For those which grow in the wild, the leaves also have a stronger taste. Arugula which have been cultivated in backyards and farms have a milder flavor.
This vegetable is best used to make salads. Arugula salad with walnut is a good one to make with it.
Nutritional Benefits of Arugula
Since the early Roman times, arugula has been recognized as an herb with great health benefits. Romans grow this plant and eat them because it is considered as an aphrodisiac. They even use the seeds to create an oil that adds a rich flavor to their food.
Today, the leaves of arugula are added to salads and other dishes. It is considered as an ideal food even for people who are on a diet because it has low amount of calories but high fiber level. Because of that, eating it can easily satisfy hunger without adding much calories to the meal.
Among the vitamins in arugula are Vitamin C and Vitamin A. The rich amount of Vitamin A can contribute in promoting good eye health and preventing the destruction of cells. Hence, it contributes in avoiding dryness of eyes, macular degeneration and other eye problems. On the other hand, Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and allows the body to combat a whole lot of bacteria and viruses which could trigger health ailments.
Surprisingly, this also has escalated level of calcium. This contributes in ensuring proper bone health by avoiding bone mass loss. It also helps in prevention of osteoporosis.
Arugula usually grows much faster during the summer months. However, some people have already devised a way on how to do succession planting to make it available all year round. The younger leaves of arugula can be harvested already because these are more appropriate for salads. Because of the milder taste, it gives a palatable flavor when eaten raw. Older leaves which have a stronger flavor are more recommended for sautéed or steamed dishes. The leaves can also be used in making pesto for spreads or pastas. Since this plant also produces flowers, these can be harvested too and eaten along with fresh green salads.
Once the arugula leaves are picked, it is important to use it immediately. The leaves would no longer give a pleasant taste after a day or two. If it is necessary to postpone its use, it should be kept in a dry plastic bag and refrigerated to prevent it from wilting.
Where does i come from?
Now that we’ve answered the question “What is arugula?”, it’s time to further trace its history. Just like the richness of its flavor, arugula’s roots go way, way back –– all the way to the Mediterranean region! A native of that area of the world, arugula has made its mark on countries like Italy, Morocco, Portugal, and Turkey.
If you’re familiar with your Greek or Roman mythology, then you’d know that Aphrodite or Venus is the goddess of love. In the ancient times of Rome and even Egypt, many saw arugula leaves and seeds as an aphrodisiac, or something that could incite love and desire. Even more surprising is that arugula was actually a leafy green featured in the Bible! It went by a different name then, but in the book 2 Kings they actually call it oroth. Jewish religious texts also included this name –– dating back a little over 2,000 years ago!
Surprisingly enough, though, arugula actually hadn’t found its way to the American side of the world until much, much, much later. It was only in the 1990s that people started incorporating this vegetable into their dishes. Regardless of how long it took to get there, though, rucola was now definitely here to stay.
What does it taste like?
Have you ever been enjoying a refreshing salad when suddenly you’re hit with a sharp, piquant flavor? Don’t panic; that’s probably just the arugula in your system. A stark contrast to a lot of the greens we’re familiar with, arugula’s taste has been described as hot, peppery, and sometimes even spicy! Some say it has a nutty taste, while others reckon it’s closer to ingredients like mustard! But no matter what you think it resembles, it’s true that this ingredient really sets itself apart.
How do you take out arugula’s bitterness or spice?
What is arugula, and why is it so bitter? To be honest, it’s hard to answer that question without going too scientific. The Italian Dandelion, as arugula is often so fondly called, is known for its distinct flavor. However, how bitter or how pungent it is highly depends on what variety of arugula you have, as well as how properly it’s been cultivated. Some even say that an arugula’s bitterness also relies on the size of the leaves you pick out; once they’re bigger, they start getting bitterer.
So what is a surefire way to get arugula’s bitter taste out? While there’s no way to rid yourself of the leaves’ flavor entirely, you can still find a way to somehow tame it. Here are a few methods of doing so.
- Put your arugula leaves in a mix of coconut oil and lemon juice or simply lemon water for about half an hour. Soaking it in these liquids helps to dilute the oftentimes overpowering taste. Make sure you also massage these leaves every once in a while.
- Before cooking them, make sure to put your arugula leaves in a pot of salted water. After 30 minutes, drain your pot and run your leaves under clean, running water. Don’t forget to dry them well, too!
- Lastly, and alternatively, you could always choose to boil your arugula. Scald or gulat the leaves with hot water before immediately running it under a cold shower.
These are just some of the ways you can reduce arugula’s distinct flavor for an altogether more pleasant dining experience.
What can I use as an arugula substitute?
After answering the question “what is arugula,” what’s your attitude towards this dish now? Are you still on the fence about using rucola? Or is it unavailable at your local grocery store? Don’t worry; there are still other vegetables you can use as a great substitute for these leafy greens. Although the taste of rucola is irreplaceable, these will certainly do if you’re in need of a quick fix.
Taste-wise, it is watercress among this list of vegetables that is most similar to arugula. Peppery and slightly bitter, some compare the taste of watercress to ingredients like mustard and wasabi. Furthermore, this pair of greens looks exactly alike! An uncanny resemblance in taste and in looks makes watercress the perfect substitute to your arugula. Not to mention, it’ll provide you with almost the same nutritional supplements as the original counterpart.
With the same green appearance but a slightly milder taste, baby spinach isn’t hard to find at all at supermarkets! This will make it an easy substitute for our rucola leaves. Baby spinach has a mellow taste when compared to the mature version of this vegetable. Almost fittingly, this green works better if you’re trying to substitute the baby version of arugula as well.
The bright and purple appearance of this vegetable may make it seem like an unlikely substitute, but radicchio’s bitter taste rivals that of our rucola leaves. At first glance, radicchio seems like a cross between a lettuce and an onion. This is because of its large, red leaves and white veins. However, beyond this first sight lies a taste that might surprise you! Radicchio has the remarkable ability of being both bitter and spicy at the same time, but not in an unpleasant way. Its bright color might even give your dish the twist it needs!
Have you ever seen dandelion greens before? With sharp ridges on the sides of the leaves, they look quite similar to the arugula we might be more familiar with. Available all year round and quite easy to find (depending on where you’re from), dandelion greens have a very bold flavor –– very familiar to arugula eaters. Not only are they a great substitute culinary-wise, but they are also incredibly nutritious, packing vitamins like omega-3 and vitamins C, K, and A.
A member of the Cruciferous family, kale is a close relative of cabbage –– and to some extent arugula, too. Its taste is more similar to that of the former, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great substitute for this piquant vegetable. Kale is often referred to as a “superfood” due to its abundance of vitamins and nutrients. From fiber to antioxidants to potassium, kale isn’t lacking in good nutrients for your body. This will make your dish even healthier.
Which arugula substitute is your favorite?
Can you cook arugula?
You might be wondering: what is arugula if not a green you can add to your salads? Well, this vibrant vegetable lends its distinct tastes to many dishes –– even when you cook it!
Whether you use it in pesto, salads, sandwiches, or alongside hearty meat dishes, arugula offers a freshness to your flavor palate. It’s highly delicious and flavorful, offering a kick to even the most classic of dishes. I really enjoy arugula as a side to many different sandwiches. However, I also like to sauté it alongside spinach or kangkong for a healthy, filling lunch. The possibilities of this ingredient are endless!
What’s your favorite rendition of rucola?
How do you store arugula?
Crisp and refreshing –– that’s how arugula should be! And if you store it right, you’re sure to keep it that way for a long time. After “What is arugula?”, your next question should be how to store this vegetable properly.
When you leave arugula in your fridge for too long or don’t store it properly, its bright green color tends to turn yellow. It may also wilt or produce brown spots. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you’ve stored your rucola as best as you can! Luckily enough, this vegetable isn’t one that requires much preparation for storage.
All you need to store arugula properly is a perforated plastic bag and some paper towels. After thoroughly washing your arugula, be sure to dry it just as well. Then, place your leaves in between a paper towel that is damp (not wet) and seal it inside your plastic bag. Place your arugula in the crisper section of your fridge –– and that’s that! These veggies can stay up to 5 days in your fridge if you’ve stored them well, but the sooner you use them the better.
If you want to keep your arugula long-term, however, another viable option is freezing your rucola. To do this, you must first blanch your arugula for about 30 seconds. Then, quickly place your greens in ice. Drain and dry your leaves before packing them in freezer zipper bags. You can then store your packs of rucola in the deepest part of your freezer for as long as up to a year! Just be sure to check on it every once in a while.
Rucola, salad rocket, Italian cress –– whatever you call it, arugula has been around and will continue to be around for a long time. It is vibrant and tasty, with a delightful piquancy unlike any other. Don’t be afraid; try it today!