It’s time to give a little love to the workhorse greens that carry all the fixings from fork to mouth…
Last week I found myself in possession of some greens, freshly grown and generously gifted by a neighbor. Lettuces, herbs, and some particularly alluring arugula, the plants had obviously thrived in the sandy soil where they were grown, but it wasn’t until they made their way to the salad bowl that their true colors were allowed to shine. These were no ordinary, run-of-the-mill, store-bought baby greens! Everything tasted greener, fresher, brighter, but the arugula! The arugula was so spicy, peppery and pungent that it could barely be eaten raw. So accustomed have I become to the mild baby arugula available in the grocery store that can so easily be made into a salad all on its own that the real thing — the real, grown by loving hands plant — was a brand new experience. Turns out, arugula is a lot more complex than I could have imagined. As we enter into salad season — the season when the thought of turning on the stove is enough to make you start sweating preemptively, when cold salads in every variety are what’s eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — it’s time to give a little love to the workhorse greens that carry all the fixings from fork to mouth. Read on to learn why arugula deserves a place at the table — and in your bowl — this season. The benefits might surprise you.
What is it? Arugula, also called rocket, is a member of the Brassicaceae family (along with kale, turnip, and broccoli) native to the Mediterranean region, specifically Morocco. With a unique spicy, peppery flavor it’s a common sight on the summer table as it thrives in sandy, dry soil and, depending on the region, is considered to be either an herb or a lettuce and treated as such (sometimes added sparingly as a garnish, sometimes taking center stage as the main dish). Arugula’s electric flavor inspired excitement in at least one culture, earning it the label of aphrodisiac by the Romans and Egyptians for its ability to awaken drowsy people, and was mixed with boring, mood-killing lettuce in Medieval times to dampen its otherwise too-stimulating properties. These days, arugula is most commonly found in the produce section, though it’s an easy plant to grow and one that rewards with an even more pungent flavor profile than what’s available in stores.
What are the benefits? For a simple, seemingly everyday green, arugula boasts some pretty surprising rewards. Rich in vitamin C, it can help ward off summer colds by strengthening the immune system and increase cellular turnover and collagen production in the skin. Rich in antioxidants, arugula can help scrub the body of free radicals and boost the body’s ability to flush out toxins. Rich in vitamin K, arugula could also boost brainpower and strengthen your bones — vitamin K has been found to ward off brain degeneration and build and strengthen healthy bones. The high profile B-complex vitamins present in arugula could also aid in speeding up the metabolic process, as B vitamins have been shown to increase cellular turnover and the production of red blood cells.
How do I use it? Arugula lends itself beautifully to a variety of culinary uses and can stand on its own as a side (try it mixed with lemon and good olive oil) or as part of a dish (try tossing some fresh arugula on top of a homemade pizza just as it comes out of the oven). It’s delicious tossed into pastas and added to salads and is hearty enough to even be sauteed — the peppery flavor adds a unique profile and counterbalance when paired with fresh fruit, seafood, or even a sweeter balsamic dressing.
Arugula Plum Summer Salad
1 large handful baby arugula
2 cups mixed baby greens
½ cup chopped red cabbage
4-5 radishes, chopped
2 plums, pitted and sliced
Small handful of walnuts, chopped
Optional: Goat cheese, crumbled
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine (pro tip: a big bowl makes all the difference when it comes to a great salad). Top with salad dressing of choice (I recommend good olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar). Serve with a crusty baguette or favorite gluten-free bread. Makes one large serving or two smaller side salads.
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This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.