Eruca sativa

It’s good enough for the President, it ought to be good enough for you!

“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” –Barack Obama

A most humble cool-season vegetable, arugula was rudely thrust into the national spotlight when Obama asked this question to an audience in rural Iowa back in 2007.  Though he intended to highlight the skyrocketing cost of food and the financial cost of eating food that is grown by farmers and not engineers, critics immediately turned on Obama and his “arugula gap” (actual quote!), his “arugula-gate” moment and his “wine track” following (as opposed to blue collar, “beer track” voters.  I guess they only eat iceberg lettuce).  But arugula knows no party divisions.  It is a vegetable for all women and men, provided they enjoy a little spice in their salad.

Arugula is native to the Mediterranean region, cultivated originally from Morocco and Portugal to Jordan and Turkey.  It entered the culinary world most widely in the times of the Roman empire, and remains favored in Italian cooking.  Scientifically, it is of the broad Brassica family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, and other excessively healthy vegetables.  It is rich in vitamin C and potassium.

The leaves provide a healthy kick to any salad, and are most often mixed with lettuce or other greens.  It may also be used as a pizza topping (but don’t cook it for the whole time, which will cause it to wilt) or cooked into vegetable pasta sauces.  Braver cooks may also make pesto with arugula, either exclusively or in addition to basil.  And on the island of Ischia, near Italy, brewmasters have created Rucolino, a digestive alcohol made of arugula.  Sorry, I couldn’t find the recipe.

From July 2, 2009 Fox & Fawn Farm Newsletter

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