Arugula (American English) // or rocket (British English) (Eruca vesicaria; syns. Eruca sativa Mill., E. vesicaria subsp. sativa (Miller) Thell., Brassica eruca L.) is an edible annual plant in the family Brassicaceae used as a leaf vegetable for its fresh, tart, bitter, and peppery flavor. Other common names include garden rocket, (British, Australian, South African, Irish and New Zealand English), and eruca. It is also called "ruchtetta", "rucola", "rucoli", "rugula", "colewort", and "roquette". Eruca sativa, which is widely popular as a salad vegetable, is a species of Eruca native to the Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal in the west to Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey in the east.
It is an annual plant growing to 20–100 cm tall. The leaves are deeply pinnately lobed with four to ten small lateral lobes and a large terminal lobe. The flowers are 2–4 cm diameter, arranged in a corymb, with the typical Brassicaceae flower structure; the petals are creamy white with purple veins, and the stamens yellow; the sepals are persistent after the flower opens. The fruit is a siliqua (pod) 12–25 mm long with an apical beak, and containing several seeds.
Eruca vesicaria grows 20–100 centimetres (8–39 in) in height. The pinnate leaves have four to ten small, deep, lateral lobes and a large terminal lobe. The flowers are 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) in diameter, arranged in a corymb in typical Brassicaceae fashion, with creamy white petals veined in purple, and having yellow stamens; the sepals are shed soon after the flower opens. The fruit is a siliqua (pod) 12–35 millimetres (0.5–1.4 in) long with an apical beak, and containing several seeds (which are edible). The species has a chromosome number of 2n = 22.
The Latin adjective sativa in the plant's binomial name is derived from satum, the supine of the verb sero, meaning "to sow", indicating that the seeds of the plant were sown in gardens. Eruca sativa differs from E. vesicaria in having early deciduous sepals. Some botanists consider it a subspecies of Eruca vesicaria: E. vesicaria subsp. sativa. Still others do not differentiate between the two.
The English common name rocket derives from the Italian word Ruchetta or rucola a diminutive of the Latin word eruca, once designated a particular plant in the family Brassicaceae (probably a type of cabbage). Arugula (//), the common name now widespread in the United States and Canada, entered American English from a non-standard dialect of Italian. The standard Italian word is rucola, a diminutive of the Latin "eruca". The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first appearance of "arugula" in American English to a 1960 article in The New York Times by food editor and prolific cookbook writer Craig Claiborne.
Eruca vesicaria typically grows on dry, disturbed ground and is also used as a food by the larvae of some moth species, including the garden carpet moth. Eruca vesicaria roots are also susceptible to nematode infestation.
Cultivation and history
A pungent, leafy green vegetable resembling a longer-leaved and open lettuce, Eruca vesicaria is rich in vitamin C and potassium. In addition to the leaves, the flowers, young seed pods and mature seeds are all edible.
Grown as an edible and popular herb in Italy since Roman times, it was mentioned by various ancient Roman classical authors as an aphrodisiac, most famously in a poem long ascribed to the famous 1st century Roman poet Virgil, Moretum, which contains the line: "et Venerem revocans eruca morantem" ("and the rocket, which revives drowsy Venus [sexual desire]"), and in the Ars Amatoria of Ovid. Some writers assert that for this reason during the Middle Ages it was forbidden to grow rocket in monasteries. It was listed, however, in a decree by The holy Roman emperor Charlemagne of 802 as one of the pot herbs suitable for growing in gardens. Gillian Riley, author of the Oxford Companion to Italian Food, states that because of its reputation as a sexual stimulant, it was "prudently mixed with lettuce, which was the opposite" (i.e., calming or even soporific). Riley continues that "nowadays rocket is enjoyed innocently in mixed salads, to which it adds a pleasing pungency", though Norman Douglas insisted that “Salad rocket is certainly a stimulant”.
Rocket was traditionally collected in the wild or grown in home gardens along with such herbs as parsley and basil. It is now grown commercially in many places, and is available for purchase in supermarkets and farmers' markets throughout the world. It is also naturalised as a wild plant away from its native range in temperate regions around the world, including northern Europe and North America. In India, the mature seeds are known as Gargeer. This is the same name in Arabic, جرجير (gargīr), but used in Arab countries for the fresh leaves.
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Since Roman times in Italy, raw rocket is added to salads. It is often added to a pizza at the end of or just after baking. It is also used cooked in Apulia, in southern Italy, to make the pasta dish cavatiéddi, "in which large amounts of coarsely chopped rocket are added to pasta seasoned with a homemade reduced tomato sauce and pecorino", as well as in "many unpretentious recipes in which it is added, chopped, to sauces and cooked dishes" or in a sauce (made by frying it in olive oil and garlic) used as a condiment for cold meats and fish. Also is often combined with boiled potatoes, used in a soup, Throughout Italy it is used as a salad with tomatoes, and with either burrata, bocconcini, buffalo and mozzarella cheese. In Rome, rucola is used in straccetti, a dish of thin slices of beef with raw rocket and Parmesan cheese.
A sweet, peppery digestive alcohol called rucolino is made from rocket on Italian island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples. This liqueur is a local specialty enjoyed in small quantities following a meal in the same way as a limoncello or grappa.
In Brazil and Argentina, where its use is widespread, rocket is eaten raw in salads. A popular combination is rocket mixed with mozzarella cheese (normally made out of buffalo milk) and sun-dried tomatoes.
In Cyprus, the plant is used in salads and omelettes. An omelette with rocket (Greek rokka) is common in Cypriot restaurants.
In Persian Gulf countries the plant is used raw in the salads mixed with other vegetables or alone. In Eastern Saudi Arabia it is widely believed the plant has a lot of health benefits and recommended for newlywed couples.
In Turkey, similarly, the rocket is eaten raw as a side dish or salad with fish, but is additionally served with a sauce of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
In West Asia, Pakistan and Northern India, Eruca seeds are pressed to make taramira oil, used in pickling and (after aging to remove acridity) as a salad or cooking oil. The seed cake is also used as animal feed.
Tortellini with rocket and lemon
- The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species, retrieved 11 May 2016
- Flora of NW Europe: Eruca vesicaria Archived 2007-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
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- Oxford English Dictionary
- Claiborne, Craig (May 24, 1960). "A Green by Any Name: Pungent Ingredient Is Cause of Confusion for City Shopper; Arugula – or Rocket – Is the Secret of Experts' Salads". The New York Times. p. 33.
- "Arugula: Arugula". smartgardener.com.
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- Wright, Clifford A. (2001). Mediterranean Vegetables. Harvard Common Press. p. 27. ISBN 9781558321960.
- Virgil, 102 Moretum: 85. Joseph J. Mooney in his 1916 English translation, "The Salad", calls it "colewort" and notes, "The Latin moretum, which is usually translated "salad", would be better called "cheese and garlic paste", i.e., pesto. See The Minor Poems of Vergil: Comprising the Culex, Dirae, Lydia, Moretum, Copa, Priapeia, and Catalepton (Birmingham: Cornish Brothers, 1916), scanned as part of Appendix Vergiliana: The Minor Poems of Virgil in English Translation on the website Virgil.org.
- Ovid, The Love Poems (Oxford 2008) p. 119
- Padulosi, Pignone D., Editors, Rocket: A Mediterranean Crop for the World (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute,1997), p. 41.
- Helen Morgenthau Fox, Gardening With Herbs for Flavor and Fragrance (1933, reprinted New York: Dover, 1970), p. 45. See also Denise Le Dantec and Jean-Pierre Le Dantec, Reading the French Garden: Story and History (MIT Press, 1998), p. 14.
- Gillian Riley, The Oxford Companion to Italian Food (Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 446.
- Ovid, The Love Poems (Oxford 2008) p. 232
- USDA Plants Profile: Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa
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- Reilly, The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, p. 446
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- G.J.H. Grubben and O.A. Denton, ed. (2004). "Vegetables". Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. 2. p. 295. ISBN 90-5782-147-8.
- Das, Srinabas; Kumar Tyagi; Harjit Kaur (2004). "Evaluation of taramira oil-cake and reduction of its glucosinolate content by different treatments". Indian Journal of Animal Sciences. 73 (6): 687–691.
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- Jeane Osnos, "The most political vegetables: A whirlwind tour of the edible crucifers", The Botanist in the Kitchen, November 20, 2012. How arugula joined broccoli (and lattes) as supposed markers for big-government liberalism.
- Joel Denker, "The 'Lascivious' Leaf: The Allure of Arugula", Food in the 'Hood (published August 11, 2012), in The Intowner, Serving Washington, D. C. since 1968.
- Ezra Klein, "Arugula", The American Prospect, October 7, 2008.
- John Schwenkler, "Eating arugula has become a political act: Conservative thinker is branded a closet liberal based on the food he eats", Earth Matters, MNN (Mother Nature Network), March 2009. Mr. Schwenkler's article originally appeared in Plenty magazine in October 2008.
- David Kamp, The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation, New York: Clarkson Potter (2006).