Arugula, or rocket as it is occasionally called in the states, is new to our garden this year. Anyone who has grown lettuce knows that after a few hundred salads it becomes important to get creative and add interesting flavors to your greens in order to keep interest in the pursuit of health. That is exactly the reason that we decided to grow arugula this year and it has turned into an interesting treat not only in taste but in the historical sense as well.
Garden rocket is native to the Mediterranean. The Romans grew this relative of the radish and watercress for both its leaf and seeds. The seed was used as a flavoring oil. According to the Cambridge World History of Food there are records of it being used in aphrodisiacs all the way back to the 1st century AD, is there a better reason to eat your vegetables?
Over the years one point of interest I have written about is how a gardener of humble means can eat gourmet simply by growing their own food. Arugula is a good example of this. A cornerstone of Italian cuisine as well as the American gourmet market one can grow rocket quite easily in their own backyard. This year I grew a number of greens and hands down the arugula had the best germination rate of the group.
Before trying it for the first time I read descriptions of taste that ranged from peppery,similar to a nasturtium flower, all the way to nutty on the palate. I would have to say that I found the loose oak shaped leaf to have a hint of nut that was not overpowering but really added a nice flavor to a potentially bland salad. I have also read that you can coat it with a little olive oil and steam it for a delicious side dish.
Arugula is also very healthy for you as one may imagine. It is very high in vitamin A and C. It contains beneficial amounts of calcium and magnesium. It is also extremely low in calories.
If you happen to find yourself looking for something new in your garden or salad mix this year I would highly recommend trying some garden rocket. Whether your plot provides full sun or a shady corner it takes root quite well.