Why and how to eat arugula

Why and how to eat arugula

Ever wonder how to eat arugula? There’s a reason why arugula is all the rage in many European countries — and why it should be on your dinner table, too.     

Arugula. If you’re like most Americans, you might not have even heard of the stuff.

If you’re in the rarified crowd who does know what arugula is, you’re probably not terribly fond of it. Other common leafy greens like lettuce or kale offer an immediately sweet, mild, pleasant flavor.

However, arugula is spicy, mustardy, peppery, and pungent. So why is arugula all the rage at fancy restaurants throughout the US? Why have Europeans been going crazy for arugula for thousands of years?

Short answer:

  1. because they know how to use it in the kitchen, and
  2. because they know how good it is for you.

Types of Arugula

Sylvetta arugula leaves. These are much smaller than the leaves of annual arugula species. | why and how to eat arugula

Sylvetta arugula (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) leaves. These are much smaller than the leaves of annual arugula (Eruca).

Not all arugula is the same. There are three species of arugula that all generally get sold under the name “arugula”:

  1. Eruca sativa – A species of annual arugula native to Europe and the Mediterranean. “Annual” simply means it only lives for a single growing season before producing flower and seeds, then dying.
  2. Eruca vesicaria – Closely related to Eruca sativa and also an annual plant.
  3. Diplotaxis tenuifolia – Also known as “sylvetta” or “wild arugula,” this is a perennial plant that lives for up to five years. Of all three species of arugula, it’s probably the most potent in flavor.

Most arugula you’ll see sold in the US is Eruca sativa, and the most popular variety is called ‘Astro.’ Why? Because it grows fast, it has large leaves, and it offers the mildest — and arguably best — flavor of all the arugula varieties the world over.

A pile of Astro arugula. / Why and how to eat arugula

A pile of Astro arugula.

Why and How to Eat Arugula

Before we jump to how to eat arugula, let’s talk about the why.

First reason why: because arugula might be the most nutrient-dense leafy green on the planet.

Compared to typical grocery store lettuce, arugula offers:

  • 8x more calcium,
  • 5x more vitamin A,
  • 5x more vitamin C,
  • 5x more vitamin K, and
  • 4x more iron.

Oh, and that spicy flavor? That’s the result of isothiocyanates and erucin, potent cancer-fighting compounds found in particularly high concentrations in arugula.

Sylvetta arugula flowers. The flowers and seeds of arugula are also edible; they also pack a spicy punch, like the leaves do. / Why and how to eat arugula

Sylvetta arugula flowers. The flowers and seeds of arugula are edible too; like the leaves, they also pack a spicy punch.

Don’t worry. Healthy food — including arugula — shouldn’t taste bad in a meal. This is where it’s important to know how to eat arugula… 

Arugula isn’t like a piece of organic fruit… It’s not something you’ll just sit down and eat by the handful.

Think of arugula as an ingredient, like an herb, that adds unique flavor and nuance to a meal. You wouldn’t eat a pile of oregano, would you? But try to imagine a marina sauce without oregano included!

The same principle applies to arugula, which adds a wonderful flavor and texture to an infinite array of foods and beverages.

Don’t take our word for it. Bon Apetit has 31 recipes showing you how to eat arugula that will get your creative culinary juices flowing.

Arugula Salad 

We’ve also discovered an odd “hack” for eating relatively large quantities of raw arugula.

We’ve never tested this hack on a larger audience, so it might not hold true for everyone… If you make a salad dressing with:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil,
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard,
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar,
  • 2 teaspoons honey,
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste,

then toss it with about 6 cups of arugula leaves, you can make an all-arugula salad that’s not just tolerable, but downright delicious.

Astro arugula - why and how to eat arugula

Astro arugula leaves are the largest and perhaps best-flavored of all the arugula varieties.

We’re not sure which ingredient — or combination of ingredients — neutralizes the spicy kick from the arugula greens, but something in the dressing does the trick. Or maybe we’re just oddballs.

Give arugula salad a try using our basic recipe and let us know what you think! Or pick any of the 31 arugula recipes recommended by Bon Apetit from above.

And now you know why and how to eat arugula. 

One more reason to eat arugula for you Daily Harvesters… 

When you get your Daily Harvest Express FarmBox this week, you’ll find some beautiful Astro arugula inside.

phil noble - sage mountain farm

Phil Noble from Sage Mountain Farm. Read his story here.

Want to know where your arugula came from? Phil Noble and the hardworking family & crew at Sage Mountain Farm, who we wrote about in this farmer profile article

A local, family-owned organic farm is helping you fight cancer with your fork — how cool is that?


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