Arugula, Eruca sativa, is a leafy green in the mustard (Brassicaceae) family that has become popular in the United States only in the past few decades. Arugula is native to the Mediterranean and has been grown as an edible plant since the Roman times. Arugula has many names around the world, including rucola, rucoli, rugula, colewort, roquette and rocket in countries of British influence.
Arugula grows well in dry soil, which makes it a great crop for home gardeners in Yavapai County. If the plant is left to bolt, flower, and then make seed pods in a bed, it’s guaranteed to reseed and come back for seasons to come. Often arugula will take over a garden if left unchecked. It grows well in warm, cool and cold temperatures, but tends to bolt quickly in the height of summer. Due to its adaptability, it can be grown nearly year-round here in Yavapai County.
The green leaves of arugula are rich in vitamins A, C and K as well as iron, calcium and potassium. The Romans thought arugula to be an aphrodisiac.
While the leaves are most often used in the kitchen, the plant’s flowers, seedpods and seeds are also edible. Arugula is best eaten raw and commonly used in salads. The leaves range from a mild peppery taste to pungent and spicy. Usually the younger tender leaves have a milder taste. Larger leaves can have a bitter taste and benefit from having the stems removed before eating. In addition to spicing up lettuce salads, arugula makes an excellent pesto and adds a pleasant spiciness when added atop a freshly baked pizza.