Luscious arugula is a well-known vegetable in California cuisine. We find it in salads routinely and it is always available in our produce sections, mainstream and health food stores alike. Being a huge fan it was an easy decision to add to my modest vege garden, not quite knowing what to expect, as is the case each time we try a new vegetable or fruit in our garden–one of the primary reasons we probably continue to grow things at all, right? We are always learning new things. And, out of that hesitancy, I bolted at the thought of seeds and started, then, with some small healthy starter plants I bought from a lovely German farmer at the local farmer’s market. Had I known then what I know now I would have readily started with seed. I haven’t looked it up on Dave’s Garden or elsewhere, but I’m here to tell you, it’s aggressive. First it’s hearty. And secondly the seeds just abound. They are of the We Have a Mind of Our Own Variety and they show up everywhere. (Let’s just get this out of the way.) Cases in point. They are in my petunia hanging baskets; they are in my lavender, which I apparently created simply washing the sidewalk that separates the veges from the Other Plants. Hearty creatures. Think abundant little determined sperms just dying to create new life. Some ended up in my alyssum pot. I have no idea how. And they took over. I now have a winter arugula pot, lending green life to a very still life backyard. Here it is, naughty, naughty:
As if I needed it. The very best part (so here is the Good News!) is that I now have arugula ALL YEAR LONG! This is heaven to my palate. I adore arugula. My body adores arugula. And, basically, at this point, it’s free. All I can eat, for free. Does that not sound like a deal? Yummy yummy arugula.
So what is it anyway? It’s formal name is Eruca sativa, a species of eruca, native to the Mediterranean region. The British call it rocket, and it is also known as garden rocket and rocketsalad, where it is most often found. It is very rich in vitamin C and iron. I munch on it while I’m playing ball with the Border Collies now and then, just knowing I’m doing myself a nice favor and I love the unexpected peppery taste! And I routinely mound it onto nearly any and every sandwich I prepare.
Apparently it’s been grown since Roman times and they regarded it as an aphrodisiac. (Who knew?) The Italians add it to pasta dishes and pizza, adding towards the end of the cooking and baking processes so that it might wilt. But another place it is used is as an alternative to basil in pesto, though substituting walnuts for the pinenuts. I’m not that fond of walnuts so I tried the following:
2 cups fresh arugula leaves
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 garlic cloves
Now, if you are a left brain person, add the above ingredients to a food processor a little at a time until all is blended. If you are a right brain person
put all the above in a processor and hit blend. I’ve tried it both ways and I could find no appreciable difference. You can put a teeny tiny bit of European fine salt in there if you want to, but the parmesan is pretty salty, so that might just be enough. One thing you will notice is the exquisitely rich, vibrant green color! It just exudes life, clearly a clue to its properties. Now heat, and put on some lovely pasta, garnished with a bit more parmesan to taste. Maybe serve up with a nice baked acorn squash?
Yum! So good on a winter’s eve!
If you have not yet tried arugula in your gardens yet, I hope you will be inspired to try. I predict it will become a regular in your palette.
Postscript: These pansies are insisting on being part of this wet and wintry post. What to do?
Posted on January 27th, 2008 by Kathryn
Filed under: Plants