By Barbara Porsch—Herb Enthusiast
The strong, peppery and nutty flavored greens found in fancy salad mixes are called Arugula. However, in Renee’s Garden seed catalog, arugula is listed among the herbs. So I am justified in using it as an herb of the month. In its native home of Southern Europe, arugula is also called rocket or roquette. There are two varieties known as arugula. (Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa) and the wild, rustic variety named Diplotaxis tenuifolia ‘Sylvetta’. The leaves are shaped a little differently. Both arugulas are members of the mustard family. Traditionally, arugula makes up a significant portion of salad and garden seed blends known as mesclun. Mesclun comes to us from the French, and traces back to the Latin word miscere, meaning “to mix.” The flowers are edible also and have a delightful raw peanut taste. I bought seeds from Renee’s Garden many years ago and have never purchased seeds again. Cross my heart! And I always have plenty to share if anyone is interested. I have also found that the bees love the flowers, so I allow my plants to hang on until the bitter end for the bees to enjoy. As a result, many seeds are sown. This year I had just cleaned up the raggy plants (saving at least a pint or so seeds) when we got that lovely 2.75 inches of rain. In a week or so my garden was like a green meadow! Talk about a thinning job. Many people don’t like the sharp mustard like flavor and only use it with a blend of other greens, but I personally use it like lettuce in a sandwich. You can make a pesto with arugula leaves instead of basil. Here are a couple of my favorite recipes using ingredients that are abundant right now. These are the basic recipe. They both can be adjusted for more or less very easily.
Fig and Arugula Salad: You need perfect greens and perfect figs for this salad. When the quality of the ingredients is so good, the salad is so flavorful it doesn’t need the usual lemon or vinegar to dress it.
In medium salad bowl, toss 1 bunch baby arugula with just enough extra virgin olive oil to moisten. Divide among salad plates. Top fig halves with a spoonful of goat cheese and arrange on top of greens. Generously grind black pepper over the figs and enjoy! Arugula, Zucchini & Parmesan salad:
6 cups arugula leaves,
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced crosswise,
1 small yellow squash thinly sliced crosswise,
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil,
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice,
salt and freshly ground black pepper,
4 oz Parmesan cheese.
Toss together arugula and squashes. Whisk together oil and lemon juice with salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad. Using a veggie peeler, shave cheese over top.