|Written By Lara Wadsworth
Arugula (American English), also known as Rocket, is an easy plant to grow that everyone should be familiar with. Arugula can often be replaced in recipes for spinach and other soft leafy greens. Try it a few times and you will undeniably gain a taste for it! The classic peppery flavor can be intimidating at first, but once you see the opportunities, you won’t want to live without it.
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10 Ways to Use Arugula In Everyday Cooking
Arugula is also one of the most popular microgreens on the market for a good reason. It was practically made for growing indoors. It thrives in shade and cooler temperatures often found in peoples’ homes and kitchens. Growing arugula as a microgreen is easy and quick but also allows you to add a flavor to your salads or other dishes that you might not expect. These tiny cotyledons carry the same flavor as the full-fledged leaves but are slightly less pungent. Yet, you get the same amount of nutrients packed into that tiny leaf!
Arugula is most commonly found in leafy green salad mixes sold at grocery stores. This is because it adds a delightfully peppery and even spicy flavor component to salads. Pairing these types of salads with olive oil-based dressings or something involving balsamic vinegar or glaze are always a win. It is also frequently eaten with goat, feta, or parmesan cheese, as the salty bite accents the green perfectly.
Wraps or Sandwiches
Just like salad mixes, arugula goes wonderfully packed into wraps or on top of sandwiches. It is a mouth-watering addition to everything from a Mediterranean-inspired wrap and even a southern-style pulled pork barbecue sandwich. The peppery taste is surprisingly agile and able to complement a wide variety of flavor profiles.
The most common kind of pesto is typically made from basil. But, did you know that pesto doesn’t have to be basil? Another traditional Italian homemade pasta sauce is arugula pesto! It is made the exact same way as basil pesto but with arugula. The leaves blended together with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and other spices and then poured over your favorite pasta shape, spread onto a sandwich, or dipped into with a crusty baguette is to die for! If you like strong, peppery, fresh flavors, you will love arugula pesto.
Not only can arugula pesto be poured over pasta, but the whole or roughly chopped leaf and be mixed into nearly any existing pasta dish. It doesn’t need much time to cook at all so when you’re done making your dish as normal, cut the heat and add in the arugula. The residual heat cooks it just enough to preserve the delightful flavor and nutrients but allow it to melt into the dish as if it always belonged there. Which it does! Or, don’t cook it at all and add it to a cold pasta dish for an even fresher texture. You simply can’t go wrong when pairing pasta and arugula.
Arugula can be added to any soup! Simply cut the heat when you are done cooking your soup as normal, then stir in the whole or roughly chopped arugula leaf. The residual heat of the dish will perfectly cook the arugula. Even for creamed soups, add it in just before the blending stage for a delightfully peppery addition to any warm or cold soup. It is an easy way to add a punch of nutritional value.
Sometimes all you need is a small handful of arugula leaves to perfectly round out a dish. Famously garnishing beef carpaccio, it can also be put on roasted vegetables with chicken, on the side of steak and potatoes, or on top of sauteed shrimp and cherry tomatoes. The fresh leaves bring just the right amount of crunch and flavor that cannot be achieved by any other green.
Adding arugula and a quick dash (or glug) of balsamic vinegar on top of a freshly cooked pizza is all the rage now. Most common in more authentic Italian pizza joints, the practice is quickly being incorporated anywhere that serves pizza. Add it yourself at home! Something about the combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, arugula, and balsamic vinegar is too good to be true. It transports you to a summer’s day in a Mediterranian countryside villa looking over the sea. But you can have it anywhere if you grow arugula yourself!
Alone Fresh or Cooked
Although arugula has some fantastic pairings in its repertoire, it can also be a side dish in and of itself. Whether just fresh with a vinaigrette or lightly sauteed with a bit of garlic and olive oil, this little green is eager to be the center of attention!
An All-Purpose Spinach Substitute
Lastly, we cannot forget that anytime spinach is called for in a recipe, most of the time, arugula can be a ready substitute. The flavor is different, but the texture is the same in many cases. Oftentimes, the flavor difference enhances whatever you’re adding it to! For example, try adding fresh leaves to your scrambled eggs or omelette in the morning with feta. To top it all off, arugula is easier to grow at home (particularly indoors) than spinach is
Nutritional Benefits of Arugula
Arugula is known for having antioxidants which are cancer-fighting components, as well as a variety of other vital nutrients. Arugula is high in vitamins A, K, and C. It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of illnesses, from erectile dysfunction to poor vision. The famous Mediterranian diet traditionally contains arugula as it is native to that region of the world.
When to Harvest Arugula
Arugula is best harvested anytime before it flowers. Give the plants bright shade and avoid direct sunlight for too much of the day to prevent premature flowering. As soon as the flower comes on, the texture and flavor of the leaves take a downward spiral. Anytime from cotyledon emergence and before the flowers develop is a perfect time for harvesting! Some can’t tell much of a difference, but they say that the older the leaves are, the stronger the flavor. For a light peppery flavor, harvest young leaves.
To have a cut-and-come-again plant, be sure to harvest no more than a third of the plant at any given time. Allow the plant a week or two to recover in between any larger harvests.
Storing Arugula Leaves
A big concern with arugula is that it tends to wilt quickly. While fresh arugula does, it is little known that arugula freezes quite beautifully! Simply blanch the arugula leaves for two minutes in boiling water before moving them to a freezer-safe container and popping them in the freezer. If you have a dehydrator, arugula can also be dehydrated and then used as a dried herb would be. Lastly, if you’ve made the arugula into a pesto sauce, the extra may be frozen as well.
|Lara Wadsworth, True Leaf Market Writer
I am a native of Southwestern Michigan, where I also reside, and I love all things plants! I got a Bachelor's Degree in Horticulture and found the first work-from-home job I could get. Now, I spend my days writing for TLM, playing with my dog, eating delicious food with my husband, and plotting my next landscape or gardening move. I believe everyone should get down and dirty in the soil now and then. Happy Gardening!