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Arugula, the Gourmet's Fancy, Grows Easily in California Backyards

i've always been crazy about arugula.  The peppery tingle it gives your tongue is as far from iceberg lettuce as it gets.  Discovering it in chi-chi restaurants, I always envisioned it as a hot house plant.

On a recent trip to Italy, it was everywhere.

Rocket, roquette, rugula and rucola -- it's all arugula. Scientifically, it's called Eruca Sativa.  Not surprisingly, it's a member of the mustard family. It natively ranges the boundaries of the Mediterranean from Portugal and Morrocco to Lebanon and Turkey.

The nutritional data for arugula is astounding: 2.5 calories for a half-cup serving!! with high doses of vitamins A and C, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and potassium to boot.

The Romans grew arugula both for its leaves and its seeds.  They used the seed to flavor oil and empower aphrodisiacs.  It was a convention of Roman meals to offer a salad of greens such as arugula, romaine, chicory, mallow or lavender seasoned with a cheese sauce.
Here at Fink Farms, the best news is that these are simple greens to grow.  Planting should be done in a sunny spot, about every 20 to 30 days for a ready supply from early spring to fall.  it does best in the spring and early summer.  As temperatures go up, it needs a little more shade, but never dense shade.  If it gets shorted on water, the leaves will be smaller and hotter in flavor.
While it is quick to go to seed, the small, white flowers can be used in salads and the seeds saved for new plantings.

It can be served raw in salads or pasta, or it can be cooked like spinach. The Italians toss it on top of a pizza just after it's pulled from the oven.  In the Gulf of Naples, an after-dinner drink called rucolino is made from arugula.  It's served much like limoncello or grappa.

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