Eruca vesicaria sativa
- Italian Cress
- Salad Rocket
Arugula (botanical name Eruca vesicaria sativa) belongs to the Eruca family and is extremely well accepted in the form of a salad vegetable. This species is indigenous to the area around the Mediterranean and the region extending from Portugal and Morocco in the west to Turkey, Lebanon and Syria in the east.
The Latin term sativa in the taxonomic name of the herb has its origin in the word satum, the analogous of sero, which denotes “to sow”, suggesting that the seeds of arugula were planted in gardens. According to a section of botanists, Eruca sativa is actually a sub-species of E. vesicaria, and is categorized as Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa. There are other botanists who do not consider the two species to be different.
Precisely speaking arugula is a leafy green herb belonging to the mustard family. This herb produces deep green lobed leaves akin to the oak leaves. At the ground level, arugula looks like a loose lettuce plant having thin, elongated leaves.
Eruca sativa or arugula grows up to anything between 20 cm and 100 cm (8 inches and 39 inches). It produces deep green, lobed leaves that are profoundly pinnate having about four to ten little lobes sideways and one big terminal lobe.
The flowers of this species measure about 2 cm to 4 cm (0.8 inch to 1.6 inches) across and are displayed in a corymb (a type of inflorescence) in the characteristic Brassicaceae manner. The petals are white having purple veins, while the stamens are yellow hued. Initially, the flowers have sepals, which shed immediately when the flower blooms.
The fruits of arugula are basically pods (siliqua) measuring 12 mm to 35 mm (0.5 inch to 1.4 inches) in length and have a beak at the apex. Each fruit contains several edible seeds.
Arugula is a cousin of radish as well as watercress; the leaves having a hot and peppery flavour like watercress and radish. Eruca sativa is indigenous to the Mediterranean region and it has been cultivated in the form of a green leafy vegetable since the time of the Romans. In fact, the Romans consumed the leaves of this herb, employed the seeds to add essence to oil and prepared aphrodisiac as well as therapeutic compounds from the herb.
The good thing about this herb is that it encloses very less calories and, at the same time, is an excellent source of folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium and calcium. You may consume arugula raw, incorporate it in salads along with various other salad greens or eat it after cooking.
The leaves are excellent for consumption after they are lightly sautéed either in olive oil or steamed and included in pasta preparations. In addition, you can use the herb to prepare pesto and serve it along with potatoes or pasta. Alternately, the pesto made with arugula can also be served with grilled or roasted meat.
The leaves of arugula plants growing in the wild are smaller, but spicier compared to the cultivated types. Growing arugula in home gardens is comparatively easy. Collect the edible flowers of this species just before the plants are about to develop seeds and use them in salads.
When you practice succession plantings, it will ensure that you receive a continuous supply of fresh leaves of the herb throughout the summer. It may be noted that the flavour of arugula leaves intensifies as they become mature. On the other hand, the young leaves of this species are tender and their flavour is mild.
Hence, the younger leaves are best for using in salads. As the older or more mature leaves tend to be somewhat bitter, you may use them better for steaming or sautéing.
The leaves have a tendency to decompose rather quickly after they are harvested. Hence, it is best to use them within a few days of harvesting. Prior to using the arugula leaves in any food, you need to wash them meticulously to ensure that they do not retain any soil or sand.
Subsequently, the leaves should be dried properly by placing them between paper towel layers or using a salad spinner. You may pack the dried arugula leaves in plastic bags and store them in a refrigerator for later use.
Arugula or Eruca sativa has many uses, including therapeutic and culinary. Apart from the herb’s aphrodisiac and love-inspiring properties, arugula is said to be among the healthiest and most helpful natural health foods available. The calories content of this herb is very little – 20 grams of arugula leaves provide us with just 5 calories.
This herb has the potential of becoming an excellent source of several vitamins like vitamins A, C, P, and K, dietary fiber, potassium, iron, other nutriments and essential minerals required by our body. Experts are of the opinion that perhaps the best health benefit of using arugula is that it enhances the quality of our blood.
Arugula possesses several therapeutic properties. While it is a very useful stimulant, use of this herb also enhances energy and power. In addition, this herb can also stop cough. This herb contains vitamins K and P and these two nutrients are known to be beneficial for the functioning of the liver.
Arugula is a member of the cruciferous family. In fact, several studies have found that all cruciferous vegetables are known to lessen the chances of developing cancer. This herb is loaded with useful antioxidants and is believed to be vital for preventing the harmful activities of free radicals in our body.
Several studies involving arugula have demonstrated that the herb contains flavonoids and vitamin A, which are effective in protecting us from various cancer forms – oral cancer, lung cancer and skin cancer. In addition, arugula is also loaded with phytochemicals, such as sulforaphane, a compound with wonderful chemoprotective actions that aids in combating cancer causing elements.
Arugula contains elevated levels of natural antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. Besides combating the harmful free radicals, these nutrients also provide excellent support to our immune system.
Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant, which perks up the immune system and is extremely beneficial for our skin, eyes, bones as well as teeth. Similarly, vitamin C is also a strong antioxidant that facilitates protection against cancer, enhances the immune system and, at the same time, combats common cold.
Three cups (750 ml) of arugula provides us with more than 100 percent of our daily vitamin K requirements. It has been established that vitamin K works to promote the health of bones and augments the functioning of the brain. In addition, vitamin K serves as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Apart from the vitamins and phytochemicals mentioned above, arugula is also a wonderful source of carotenoids, a type of natural pigments soluble in fat and known to aid in preventing macular degeneration. On the other hand, vitamin C present in arugula has the potential of preventing cataracts.
Oxalates (salts or ester of oxalic acids present in plants) slow down the body’s ability to absorb minerals. For instance, several healthy green leafy vegetables like spinach contain elevated amounts of oxalate. On the other hand, arugula seems to contain comparatively lesser amounts of oxalate, thereby making this herb a better substitute for individuals looking for foods that contain elevated levels of calcium and other essential minerals, but low oxalate content.
Arugula is a wonderful natural food for the health of our bones, as it contains an assortment of vitamins and minerals, but very less amounts of oxalate. Findings of one study involving this herb showed that consuming vitamin K every day helps to greatly diminish the risks of bone fractures.
In fact, it is believed that the presence of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese in arugula contributes greatly to sustaining the health of our bones.
While there is no scientific evidence that arugula facilitates weight loss by itself, this herb is definitely a healthy food rich in nutrients, but low in calorie content. Therefore, there is little doubt that the inclusion of this herb in any healthy diet contributes greatly in supporting our overall health.
Arugula has a number of culinary uses and is a especially favoured spice in Europe, particularly in Italy. The leaves as well as the seeds of this herb are extensively used in present day culinary. In addition, consumption of arugula with potatoes is a very popular means of taking this natural aphrodisiac.
Practically speaking arugula goes well with nearly all preparations and, hence, you can add it to any type of dishes and meals. This herb particularly gets well with fish and red meat preparations. Moreover, you may also blend arugula with other spices like pine nuts, parsnips and pistachio while dressing your preferred pasta and vegetable salads. You may take delight in the health benefits offered by arugula as well as its aphrodisiac attributes throughout the year.
This herb possesses a spicy and peppery flavour, something unusually strong for any green leafy vegetable. Arugula is often used in various types of salads and is generally blended with other green vegetables in salads, especially in a mesclun.
In addition, people in northern Italy as well as western Slovenia (particularly in Slovenian Istria) also consume this herb uncooked together with meats and pasta. People in Italy often add raw or uncooked rocket to pizzas just prior to the end of the baking period or soon after the baking is over. This is done to avoid the herb from wilting due to heat.
In southern Italy, especially Puglia, people also cooked arugula while preparing a pasta dish known as cavatiéddi. The process of preparing this dish involves adding substantial amounts of the chopped herb to seasoned pasta along with a reduced tomato sauce as well as pecorino made at home. In addition, thickly cut rocket (arugula) is also added to plain recipes, cooked dishes and sauces.
This herb is fried in
olive oil and garlic and added to a sauce in the form of a flavouring agent for fish and meat preparations. People in the Slovenian Littoral often use arugula blended with boiled potatoes for use in a soup. Alternately, people in the Slovenian town of Koper serve this combination along with cheese burek.
People in Brazil use this herb extensively. They generally add it to salads and consume it uncooked. In this part of the world, rocket blended with mozzarella cheese (usually prepared from buffalo milk) and tomatoes dried in the sun is a preferred combination.
People in Egypt also eat this herb raw in the form of a side dish along with a variety of meals, along with ful medames (a stew comprising warmed fava beans and other condiments) and it is often also served with local seafood recipes.
In northern India and West Asia, people extract taramira oil from Eruca seeds. This oil is often used in making pickles after it is matured to get rid of its acridity, and also in the form of a cooking and salad oil. The seed cake is also utilized to feed animals.
Habitat and cultivation
Arugula is native to the Mediterranean region and currently also grows all over the region extending from Lebanon to Morocco. Cultivating arugula is quite easy and it is possible to grow the plants in small containers too. You can place the containers on your windowsill enabling you to take delight in the fresh leaves all times.
Arugula is a green leafy vegetable with a spicy flavour. It has resemblance to the slender, elongated leaved lettuce rocket, which is loaded with potassium and vitamin C. Apart from the deep green leaves, the flowers, mature seeds and the young seed pods of this herb are edible.
Traditionally, people collected arugula from the wild and also cultivated it in their home gardens together with other herbs like basil and parsley. Currently, this herb is cultivated commercially throughout the region extending from Veneto to Brazil via Iowa. Rocket is also sold in farmers’ markets as well as supermarkets all over the world.
In addition, this herb has also been naturalized in the form of a wild plant in various places across the globe having temperate climatic conditions and located far away from its origin. At present, the species is grown in North America and northern Europe. The mature seeds of arugula are referred to as gargeer.
The growth of rocket is obstructed when the species is cultivated in conditions where there is mild frosting. In addition, the leaves of the herb changes from green to red when grown in such conditions.
Chemical analysis of arugula has shown that this species is a great resource of folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and manganese. In addition, this herb also contains riboflavin and essential minerals like iron, copper, potassium and zinc.
Similar to other cruciferous vegetables, arugula encloses a collection of anti-cancer compounds called glucosinolates. These chemical compounds have antioxidant actions, and also potently stimulate the naturally occurring detoxifying enzymes in our body.
Collection and harvesting
When you pick the tender leaves of arugula, the herb continues to produce new leaves for several months. The comparatively mature leaves of the herb are somewhat hotter and tougher.
The blooms of arugula are rather small and have a white hue with dark centers. The flowers are also edible and can be employed in salads to obtain a slightly spicy taste.
However, be careful not to use up all the flowers in your salads. Allow some to remain on the plants to mature and produce seeds, which can be sown in the following fall or the subsequent year.
- From Xenia – Aug-10-2017
- We add arugula to almost everything. It is a tasty and very healthy herb, packed with numerous nutrients that are beneficial for us. Arugula is great during flu season. It makes our immune system stronger in fighting infections faster. On top of its nutritional value, it adds a zesty flavour to meals.