Arugula: What Is This Leafy Green That Has A Strong Taste?

Arugula (Eruca Sativa), also called the rocket, roquette, salad rocket, or garden rocket, is an annual vegetable of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), a subspecies Eruca vesicaria sativa. The plant is an edible, leaf vegetable, and it’s grown for its fresh, tart, bitter, and peppery flavor leaves, which carry a distinct smell.

Arugula is a native to the Mediterranean region. The plant is also commonly found in Morocco and Portugal or the west, including areas like Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Turkey.

Arugula is a typical salad vegetable that is famous worldwide for its peppery and nutty taste in cuisines. It is also used because of its nutritional value. The young leaves arugula produces are often eaten raw. And those leaves are an excellent source of calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and K.

It’s pretty effortless to grow from seed, and it’s easy also. You can do that either in your garden or place it in a pot on your balcony. Arugula seed is not just an annual but also hardy, which means that it even bears a little frost as well.

The seeds are very inexpensive, and you can find them easily from almost any nurseries. But that’s not all about this incredible plant, and if you want to know what the arugula plant is, here is an article especially for you!

Common NameArugula
Botanical NameEruca Sativa
Plant TypeAn Annual
Size (Fully Grown)About 1 To 2 Feet (Approximately 30 To 61 cm)
Sun ExposureFull Sun Or Partial Shade
Soil TypeIdeally A Soil That Drains Well And Is Rich In Organic Matter
Soil pH6.0 To 6.8
Flower ColorWhite
U.S. Hardiness Zones3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, And 11
Native AreaMediterranean

How Many Types Of Arugula Are There?

Several arugula varieties are both different and similar in shape and taste. In general, all the types are almost identical in their flavor. They differ in their leaf size and shape, so choosing a favorite is a matter of personal taste. All the varieties are grown the same easy way, and that way is to sprinkle seeds directly in the garden, cover them lightly with soil, and keep the soil moist until germination.

The plant we refer to is sometimes mixed to Diplotaxis tenuifolia, known as “perennial wall rocket,” another plant in the Brassicaceae family used in the same manner. Arugula is also a common name used to refer to several edible species belonging to the Brassicaceae family (mustards), including the following different varieties found worldwide.

  1. Astro
  2. Rocket
  3. Wasabi
  4. Selvatica
  5. Slow Bolt
  6. Red Dragon
  7. Wild Rocket
  8. Italian Cress
  9. Garden Tangy

Where Did Arugula Come From?

Like many herbs and vegetables we know, also arugula is an ancient food whose history links to Roman times. The plant is also popular in roman literature and is, thus, found in the writings of many ancient Roman authors. The Romans called the plant Eruca, and the Greeks wrote about it in medical texts in the first century.

The leaves and seeds were even used to arouse sexual instinct, in other words, as an aphrodisiac by the Egyptians and Romans. But the plant’s use for medical purposes hasn’t ended, and people are still using it for those purposes in Pakistan, India, and West Asia.

Arugulas were traditionally collected from the wild or grown in home gardens the same way as other herbs like parsley and basil. But, these days, people grow the plant in many places and even do it commercially.

Of course, this depends on where you live, but you might even find arugula from your local supermarket and farmers’ markets. And there is a reason for this; this ancient leafy vegetable is currently a favorite of chefs worldwide. It has also naturalized itself as a wild plant away from its native range in temperate regions worldwide, including northern Europe and North America.

How To Recognize Arugula?

Arugula’s leaves have a unique pungent smell that makes them stand out in your kitchen, and best of all, it’s easy to identify them. Since we grow the plant for its edible leaves, the leaves are also the easiest way to distinguish them. The leaves are green and grow very low, plus close to the ground in a shape that is like a rosette.

Arugula also produces small white and purple blossoms that have four-petals. They are peppery, verdant, and a bit mellower from domestic arugulas, while the flowers of wild arugula are yellow. The chefs might be glad to hear that the arugula flowers are also edible like its leaves! The taste of these flowers is sweet instead of spicy like the leaves.

How To Grow Arugula?

Arugula is an excellent plant for home gardens because it doesn’t need a lot of space, and you can even grow it in your kitchen garden. The plant is effortless to grow, but you need to remember some things to succeed in it.

As is the case with most garden plants, the secret to growing arugula successfully lies in what you do before you even plant the seeds. Arugula seeds are tiny, so be careful that you don’t plant them too deep.

The plant loves cool weather, so you can plant them in the early spring when the weather is still a bit chilly; all they need is daytime sunlight. Even though arugula is an annual plant and can handle frost, mild frost conditions still hinder its growth and turn the green leaves red.

Temperature And Humidity

In most zones, arugula can grow as an annual. The plant will bolt once the weather gets too warm, so if you live in a hot area, grow it as a winter plant. But remember that the optimal temp is somewhere between 45 to 65°F (about 7 to 18°C).

Soil And Sunlight

Arugula tolerates many soil types, but it still grows best in well-draining soil that contains plenty of humus and organic matter. But let’s not forget soil pH, and for arugula, the optimal is somewhere around 6.0 to 7.0.

Arugula is a full sun plant, which means that it grows best in a sunny location. Although, the plant may tolerate partial shade too. This is especially useful during the hot summers when the temperatures are high. So, if you plant it in a sunny spot, try to make sure that it still gets a bit of shade in the heat of summer to prevent it from bolting.

Water

Arugula loves to grow in thoroughly moist soil, so try to take good care of that. But try to keep in mind that overwatering won’t bear healthy plants either! So water carefully using a hose or a watering can.

Fertilizing

Like we discussed earlier, arugula loves well-draining soil, but the plant also needs nutrients to prosper. One way to ensure this is by applying fertilizer with a high nitrogen content to the ground simultaneously as your planting.

But instead of using fertilizers, as I just mentioned, my recommendation is still, as always, high-quality compost!

What Can Arugula Be Used For?

© pavel siamionov – stock.adobe.com

Because arugula is a plant, we mostly use it for culinary purposes. Thanks to its tangy and peppery taste, it’s an excellent ingredient for green salads, pizza, pesto, pasta, and soups. You can also “enhance” your drinks with it, one example being a gimlet cocktail.

Besides culinary uses, some people also use it for medicinal purposes. One of those countries being India. Arugula is best to use raw, whereas you can also store it or even dry it and use it as a dry spice in different cuisines.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Arugula?

As we already mentioned, the plant contains plenty of vitamins K, A, and C, plus it’s a great source of iron and calcium. All this means that the plant is beneficial to your health.

I need to remind you that too much vitamin K could undo the effects of blood thinner medicines, so be careful with that, and remember to ask a health professional for advice!

Are there any other medical conditions where consumption of arugula could be unfavorable? Let’s find out!

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

Arugula is high in vitamins and contains plenty of iron; it is an excellent addition to pregnant or breastfeeding women. But as always, try to eat it in moderation.

Children

The plant is safe to your children and even to your small baby like other leafy greens including, spinach, kale, and arugula, which we’ve been talking about the whole time.

People With Allergies

Even though leafy greens are healthy and beneficial to us, you can be allergic to them. For example, if you already have problems with plants like kale, or spinach, there is a big possibility that you are allergic to arugula too.

A person with an allergy to this plant may face symptoms including itchy skin, swelling of their lips, tongue, and throat.

People With Diabetes

Like most vegetables, arugula is high in fiber, making it perfect for people with diabetes, as it doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels that much. And best of all, the plant contains many essential vitamins, so you’ll “kill two birds with one stone.”

Pets

Most leafy greens such as arugula aren’t toxic to household pets, so no need to worry if your pets like to have an adventure in your salad garden.

Featured image credit – © Sea Wave – stock.adobe.com

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