Arugula (Eruca vesicaria sativa) is a leafy green herb of the mustard family. Known also as Rocket, Italian Cress, Roquette, and Rucola, Arugula has elongated dark green leaves that are lobed like the leaves of an oak. In the ground, the plant resembles a loose lettuce with long, slender leaves. Arugula is related to both the radish and watercress. Tthe flavor of the leaves is similarly hot and peppery. The leaves can be between 3 and 8 inches (7.5–20 centimeters) in length, depending on the maturity of the leaf. Native to the Mediterranean region, Arugula has been grown as a vegetable since the Roman era. The Romans ate the leaves as a vegetable, used the seeds to flavor oil, and made aphrodisiac and medicinal compounds from the plant.
With a long peak season, arugula is best between June and December.
Try to find arugula that is fresh, vibrant and green.
Walk away if you see arugula leaves that are wilted, yellowing or slimy. When buying prepackaged arugula, check the bag for excess water, as moisture can cause arugula to rot quickly.
Arugula grown in the summer tends to have a more peppery flavor – to diminish the peppery flavor, lightly sauté it. Before preparing arugula, always taste it, as it can range in flavor from mild to extremely spicy.
Mixing arugula with other, less spicy greens, can help cut its bold flavor while creating a interesting salad. Try lightly sautéing arugula with garlic and olive oil as a side dish to different proteins or pasta.
Bunched arugula needs to have its tough stems removed and discarded before cleaning.
Arugula is best cleaned in a large bowl or basin of cool water. Gently swish the leaves in the cool water, to gently remove any dirt. Lift clean leaves out of the water and transfer to a salad spinner or several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Dry in the spinner or by rolling in the towels. Transfer leaves to a layer or two of paper towels (or clean, dry ones if you dried the leaves with towels), gently roll them up, and store in a loosely closed plastic bag in the fridge.