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  • Shirley Chibuoke

Cooking, Storing & Eating Arugula

Arugula is a peppery, distinctive-tasting green that originated in the Mediterranean region. It’s also known as rucola, salad rocket, and Italian cress - I think I'll start calling it salad rocket, how fun!! Arugula is a member of the Brassica, or Cruciferous, family. This classification includes mostly cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Arugula leaves

This vibrant leafy veggie has many health benefits. It's nutrient-dense and has many vital nutrients, including vitamin C and potassium. It's also high in fiber while being low in sugar, calories, carbohydrates, and fat. Here are some ways to use it and receive all its benefits:

  • Use as a topper on foods, e.g. pizza, soups, etc.

  • Add it to your salads

  • Toss with pasta

Cooking With Arugula

Like any other herb, arugula can be eaten cooked or uncooked. If you'd prefer not to cook it, its peppery nature is a great addition to lettuce blends and foods like sandwiches, soups, crostini, lasagnas and other pasta dishes, pesto, vegetable sautés, and stir fries. However, if you're going with the cooked route, a little more prep is required.

Once it is picked, it begins to lose quality (though the more local you get your arugula, the longer it'll last!). Blanching is a great way to stop that process in its tracks. To blanch arugula, dip it into boiling water, making sure to immerse all the leaves, and stir it so it blanches evenly. Blanch for about 15 seconds, then remove, shake off excess water, and plunge into an ice bath. Stir again so it cools as fast as possible.

When arugula is cooked, it loses a little of its peppery flavour, so if you're a fan of milder flavours, this would be a good route to take. You may also want to add salt to whatever dish you're making because it further reduces that peppery flavour.

Arugula can be very easily overcooked, after which it tends to be slimy and not at all appetizing. Take caution and use low heat when cooking with it. A cool technique when cooking arugula with pasta is to strain the pasta water over the arugula, which will cook it just slightly.

Storing Arugula

Before storing arugula, it's important to properly wash it, making sure to remove any dirt, then pat the leaves dry using a paper towel or salad spinner. Arugula can be stored in the pantry, the fridge, or the freezer.

For pantry storage, wrap the herb in a clean, dry towel or a paper towel and place it in a perforated plastic bag or a container with air vents. This storage method is best for short-term storage. Use the arugula within 1–2 days for best results.

For fridge storage, place the herb in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container, making sure to squeeze out excess air before sealing it. Store the arugula in the coldest part of the fridge (which is usually at the bottom) or in the crisper drawer. This method is best when using the arugula within 3–5 days.

For freezer storage, blanch the arugula using the steps mentioned before, then pat dry and divide into serving portions. Place them into freezer-safe bags and label them with the date and content. You may want to lay them flat in the freezer to prevent clumping. Frozen arugula loses some of its texture, so it's best used in soups, stews, and stir-fries. This method is best for long term storage. Use the arugula within 8–12 months.

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