Arugula is native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia to Afghanistan. Over time it spread to every continent, and it is now cultivated all over the world.
The ancient Greeks revered it. Both the Greeks and Romans attributed many medicinal properties to it and believed it to be a very strong aphrodisiac. It was also linked with Priapus, a fertility god (whose symbol was a phallus).
Although no scientific study has ever proven that arugula really acts as an aphrodisiac, this rumor has nonetheless persisted over the centuries. That is why, during the Middle Ages, it was forbidden to cultivate it in monastery gardens. As a result of this ban, arugula was forgotten about for a time. But this reputation still persists today. For example, jamba oil, which is extracted from its seeds, is used in some massage parlors.
It resurfaced in the early 20th century, first in the south of France and Italy, before gradually regaining popularity around the world, including in North America.
The leaves should be thin, firm, and dark green.
Arugula is found in the cold section of stores. It is sold either loose or in a modified atmosphere bag, washed, with its stems removed.
Its sprouts are available to buy in bags, either alone or mixed with other types of sprout.
In India, where arugula is widely cultivated, they extract oil, called jamba oil, from its seeds. It is very pungent and can only be consumed after it has been stored for 6 months.
Arugula can be used in a variety of ways:
. In a salad, either on its own or mixed with other herbs (greens) to add a peppery touch, or with vegetables.
. It can be added to soups, stews, risottos, and pasta dishes.
. It can substitute for basil in pesto.
. It is added to sandwiches, and the Italians add it to pizzas at the very end of the cooking time.
In Portugal, it is quickly blanched and then served as a vegetable to accompany meat or fish. In Turkey, it is cooked with bulgur wheat. In Egypt, it is added to bean stew.
In Naples, there is even a liqueur made from arugula, called rucolino.
Arugula does not keep well, certainly not more than 2 days in the refrigerator. It must be wrapped in damp paper or stored in a plastic bag filled with air.
Like all brassicas, arugula is rich in protective antioxidant compounds (flavonoids, carotenes). It is also rich in folic acid (vitamin B9), vitamin K, and calcium.
Arugula (Eruca sativa) is an herb that grows 20–30 cm tall and has white/yellow flowers. Its leaves, which can be 3–5 cm long, are very fleshy with a peppery, spicy flavor.
It is cultivated almost all year round as it is grown under cover in winter.
Perennial wall-rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia), also known as wild rocket, is a woody, taller plant with yellow flowers. Its leaves are narrower and it has a less pronounced flavor. It grows everywhere, but especially in the south, and is picked from summer through to the end of fall. It is also cultivated.