The warmer weather is on its way, and with it the joys of spring. One such joy? Arugula.
A member of the Brassicaceae family — think broccoli, cabbage, kale, and collards — arugula is an adventurous ingredient. It’s spicy and peppery, and therefore tends to attract a more courageous palate. The eye-catching shape of its leaves makes it a wonderful garnish for many dishes, too.
“Arugula is such an interesting green,” says Amber Brouillette, assistant farm manager at Fable in Ossining. “In addition to its flavor, arugula is considered by many as a potent superfood; it contains vitamins and minerals essential in a healthy diet, and powerful antioxidants.”
The farm and food hub is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, churning out fresh, pesticide-free produce all year round. Arugula, like most leaf vegetables, flowers in warmer temperatures. It grows best in spring or fall, when the days are colder but there is still plenty of sunlight. Fable can even grow arugula during the winter months, imitating a spring-like temperature in their greenhouse.
“We start our [arugula] in our heated greenhouse in trays, and once they’ve germinated, we transplant them into the unheated greenhouse. Once transplanted, we thin the plants to allow their roots to grow strong, and within a few weeks we’re ready to harvest.”
Of course, arugula is typically used in salads; it can be combined with other lettuce mixes to add a bit of spice, or it can be used as the primary leafy green.
“It can also be steamed, sautéed, or added to baked goods like quiche,” says Brouillette. “When cooked, arugula loses a bit of its peppery punch, and becomes more mild when mixed with fatty foods.”
And because it’s jam-packed with vitamins and low in calories, arugula makes a good addition to a daily smoothie recipe. We recommend starting off with a half cup of arugula and a half cup of your regular green the first time, unless you’re ready for that full peppery taste.
There are many varieties of the green, but the two most commonly grown types are wild arugula and cultivated arugula, the former being a much spicier version of the latter. Fable also specializes in growing microgreen arugula.
“Arugula is easily the most flavor-packed microgreen we grow,” says Brouillette. “Because microgreens are just younger versions of the adult plant, the flavor and nutritional content are intensified. The flavor of locally grown arugula is unrivaled.”
Although mature arugula can be easily found in your local supermarket, finding farm-fresh microgreen arugula requires some hunting at farmers’ markets or boutique food stores.
And, while you’re on the hunt for a bit of “rocket,” as the plant is sometimes called, keep in mind this departing advice from Brouillette: “Arugula should be bright green in color with no yellowing leaves. Check that the leaves look hydrated and that they’re not withering.”