Arugula

By Anja Springthorpe

 

If arugula is not a regular food on your shopping list, you may want to change that.  These delicate leaves not only pack a punch when it comes to flavor, but also deliver great nutrition.

Otherwise known as rocket or rucola, it is a close relative to kale, mustard greens and other brassica vegetables.  Arugula’s tender, bite-sized leaves are easy to prepare and suitable to be enjoyed either raw or cooked.  First cultivated in the Mediterranean, it has become a staple in Italian cuisine. 

While arugula’s peak season is early spring and fall, it is readily available in grocery stores throughout the year.  It can also be grown at home, either indoors or outdoors.  Young leaves are small, delicate and make the perfect addition to any salad.  Older leaves develop a distinct peppery flavor that adds depth to pesto, pasta dishes or makes an excellent pizza topping.

Aside from the exquisite taste and visual appeal, its nutritional profile alone is noteworthy.  Arugula has little calories but delivers high amounts of nutrients.  Two cups contain less than 15 calories but are packed with around 50% of our daily requirement of beta-carotene, 25% of vitamin C and 20% of magnesium. 

This eat fresh contains vitamin B5, which has been found to raise good cholesterol, lower harmful cholesterol and protect against heart disease.  Studies confirm that it supports detoxifying pathways in the liver, particularly the detoxification of heavy metals that cause skin condition, fatigue or cancer. 

Purchasing arugula is simple.  Look for bright green leaves that are crisp but not wilted or slimy.  At home, loosely wrap it in a damp paper towel, store in a refrigerator and consume within three days.  Once wilted, it should not be added to salads but is safe in cooked dishes, pesto’s or soups.

How to incorporate arugula into your diet:

Add a handful to sandwiches or wraps.

Use as topping on pizzas, soups or stews.

Add some to a smoothie.

Arugula Pesto

Ingredients:

3 cups arugula leaves

½ cup pine nuts or walnuts, toasted

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

½ cup Parmesan, freshly grated

Directions:

In a food processor or blender, combine arugula, nuts, garlic, oil and salt.  Blend for 30-45 seconds until thick paste forms.  Pour paste into a bowl, add Parmesan and stir until well combined.  Keep refrigerated in a sealed container up to one week.

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