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Arugula is Not for Snobs (Arugula Pesto and Arugula Fennel Apple Salad)

Posted Oct 01 2012 12:43am

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The cool weather greens are just starting to come ready for harvest here, and this week both my garden and my CSA box have plenty of arugula with which to make salads and other delights. 


In 2006, arugula became a symbol for the entire foodie movement with the publication of David Kamp’s book,  The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation.  In his book, Kamp explores how we evolved to a society where balsamic vinegar, free-range chicken, extra virgin olive oil, and of course, arugula, have become mainstream terms.

However, in 2008, arugula lost its luster when it became embroiled in political controversy. Unwittingly, arugula became a symbol of the culture wars in the presidential election and the media latched onto Barack Obama’s bewailing the price of arugula, much like it did when George H.W. Bush badmouthed broccoli.

Now the sordid details can come out: Arugula leads a double life. It is sometimes called rocket, roquette, rugula or rucola. It looks like a baby lettuce and is often compared to watercress, but its little known secret is that it is really just a common local weed, and a member of the cruciferous family related to broccoli and cauliflower.


Far from being a food for the elite, arugula can be found growing wild all over North America. Wild-grown arugula is more nutritious and mineral-dense than store-bought arugula.

If you can’t find a reliable wild source, arugula is very, very easy to grow, and you can find seeds in most good catalogs. It is seldom bothered by pests and grows very nicely in cool temperatures and moist soil alongside your mixed salad greens and baby lettuces. It also does well in cold frames. Harvest arugula successively or as a “cut-and-come-again” crop until heat makes it bolt and taste bitter.


Arugula is a very nutritious, leafy green vegetable with an unusual spicy flavor. Arugula is high in vitamins A, C and K, and folic acid. It is also a good source of zinc, potassium, calcium and iron. Arugula of any type is a very social green, and it goes well in mixed salads, substituting for basil in pesto sauces and stepping in for spinach when required.

From its cruciferous family roots, arugula gets its antioxidant power as well as enzymes needed for detoxifying the body naturally. Recently, it’s been linked to gastric ulcer relief. Like other greens, arugula is most nutritious when eaten raw, and can be juiced or well-blended for optimal nutrient digestion and assimilation.

Here’s are two delicious arugula recipes we enjoy a lot this time of year.

Pistachio Arugula Pesto

Enjoy this pesto on crackers, veggies, zucchini noodles, or even chicken and fish!

  • 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
  • 2 Tbsp. unpasteurized, sweet white miso
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 4-5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh black pepper, to taste
  1. In a food processor, blend all the ingredients until well combined, but you can still see small chunks of pistachios and arugula.

Arugula Fennel Apple Salad

Adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. (packed) grated lemon peel
  • 1 large fresh fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
  • 1 medium Fuji apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 6 cups trimmed arugula leaves
  • 2 mandarin oranges, oranges, clementines or tangerines, peeled
  • Pomegranate seeds
  1. Whisk the first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Season dressing with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Combine fennel and apple in medium bowl; mix in 3 tablespoons dressing.
  4. Place arugula in large bowl.
  5. Add fennel-apple mixture and toss, adding more dressing, to taste.
  6. Divide salad among 6 plates. Garnish each with orange wedges and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

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