“So what’s the deal with arugula?”
An older gentleman came up to my booth at the Local Foods Festival and blurted out this question, as if it had been bottled up inside him for years and he’d been too embarrassed to ask. We talked about the green for a while — how it’s peppery and can be eaten by itself in salads or mixed with other greens to temper the flavor, and how it’s usually grown in a greenhouse early in the season before arriving from the fields in June. Then he paused and said, “Couldn’t you just eat spinach instead?”
I had to laugh. Sure you can eat spinach, and sometimes I do, especially if the only arugula is sealed up in plastic bags and you can’t take a bite to check the strength. (Once I made an arugula salad for company that was so strong, we had to toss it. And I don’t mean with dressing.) You can substitute spinach for arugula in nearly any recipe you find. But why would you, unless you have a hankering for sugary dressing and bacon bits? If you want a salad that’s an integral part of the meal, not just something served on the side, then take a chance on this more flavorful green.
I thought of this gentleman and his question when I bought a tangle of baby arugula at the farmers market. So far we’ve enjoyed it in salads (our favorite is Arugula with Hazelnuts and Cranberries) and wilted in a frittata. How good is the arugula? So good that on the one night I didn’t serve it with dinner, my husband looked so disappointed that we hastily put an arugula salad together. I can’t imagine missing spinach that much.