While some may know it as salad rocket, rucola, rugula, or colewart, in the United States we are most familiar with this leafy green as arugula. I was first introduced to arugula many years ago when I was watching Food Network with my mom during the holidays. Jamie Oliver came on and he prepared this delicious oregano chicken dish served over a bed of arugula with a bit of lemon juice. Seeing as it was Christmas break and we didn’t have much else going on, my mom and I decided to make this chicken dish for dinner. Dinner that night was wonderful and it’s still one of my favorite meals my mom makes, but what really sets it apart is the arugula salad! I was expecting a mild leafy green that provided a nice token vegetable to the plate, but what I discovered was a delicious, bold, and unique flavor that played off of the vinegar and oregano in the chicken dish. Needless to say, arugula quickly became one of my favorite leafy greens.
Arugula isn’t only tasty, it’s also packed with vitamins and nutrients! Rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and iron, this leafy green makes a great nutritious addition to any salad. Vitamin A found in leafy greens has been found to protect the body from certain skin, lung, and oral cavity cancers. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps strengthen one’s immune system. Vitamin K promotes bone health and limits damage to brain cells over time. In order to get the most nutritional value from your arugula, try to buy fresh (like at your local farmers market) and serve raw in salads, on sandwiches, and on burgers. The greens can also be added to soups, mixed in with pasta and a little goat cheese, or, my personal favorite, on a pizza!
Last week we handed out arugula salad samples at the Old Capitol Farmers Market in Springfield, IL. The arugula was tossed with a light dressing of lemon juice and olive oil, and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. While the salad looked great, I was unsure of how popular it would be at 8:30 in the morning on a rainy Wednesday. As the day went on I was very impressed with people’s willingness to try a new vegetable as they went through the market! We interacted with people who ranged from loving arugula (and offered some great recipe suggestions!) to people who couldn’t stand any kind of leafy green, let alone a rather strongly flavored one. While not everyone was a fan of the peppery leaves, many people were surprised by how much they enjoyed the salad! Even the pouring rain that came down for the majority of the morning didn’t stop people from coming up to our table. While I love sharing a favorite vegetable of mine with others, my favorite part of the morning was the opportunity to talk with all the different types of people at the market. There is something about sharing a new experience with someone, even if it’s just a taste test, that encourages people to open up and have real conversations with each other.
So if you’re looking for a way to mix things up with dinner or if you have always enjoyed arugula but need to rekindle that love, stop by your local farmers market and then check out this delicious recipe for a light arugula salad!