Arugula, also known as salad or garden rocket,is one of the nutritious green-leafy vegetable of Mediterranean origin. It is a small, low growing annual herb featuring dandelion like succulent, elongated, lobular leaves with green-veins.
It belongs within the Brassicaceae family similar to as mustard greens, cauliflower, kale…,etc., and has the scientific name: Eruca sativa. Some of common names of garden rocket are rucola, rucoli, rugula, colewort, roquette, etc.
Salad rocket (arugula) is a quick growing, cool season crop. It prefers well-drained, fertile soil, and full sunlight to flourish. In general, arugula grows to about 2-3 feet in height with creamy-white edible flowers. Its leaves can be ready for harvest within 40 days of sowing the seed.
Younger rocket leaves feature light green color, and appear identical to that of spinach without lobulation. Additionally, young, tender leaves are less peppery and sweet in contrast to strong, spicy flavor of mature greens.
Eruca vesicaria is a closely related species of E. sativa, native to the Iberia and mountainous north-west African regions. Its leaves are deeply lobulated than the Mediterranean garden rocket.
Arugula flowers, pods and seeds are also edible.
Health benefits of Arugula, Rocket (Roquette)
- As in other greens, arugula too is one of very low calorie vegetable. 100 g of fresh leaves hold just 25 calories. Nonetheless, it has many vital phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that may immensely benefit health.
- Salad rocket has an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity, a measure of anti-oxidant strength) of about 1904 µmol TE per 100 grams.
- Being a member of Brassica family, arugula leaves are rich sources of certain phytochemicals such as indoles, thiocyanates, sulforaphane, and isothiocyanates.
- Together, these compounds have been found to counter carcinogenic effects of estrogen and thus may offer protection against prostate, breast, cervical, colon, ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition, cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.
- Further, di-indolyl-methane (DIM), a lipid soluble metabolite of indole has immune modulator, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties (by potentiating Interferon-Gamma receptors). DIM has currently been found application in the treatment of recurring respiratory papillomatosis caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and is in Phase-III clinical trials for cervical dysplasia.
- Fresh salad rocket is one of greens rich in folates. 100 g of fresh greens contain 97 µg or 24% of folic acid. When given to the anticipant mothers during their conception time, folate may help prevent neural tube defects in the newborns.
- Like as in kale, salad rocket is an excellent source of vitamin A. 100 g fresh leaves contain 1424 µg of beta-carotene, and 2373 IU of vitamin A. Carotenes convert into vitamin A in the body. Studies found that vitamin A and flavonoid compounds in green leafy vegetables help protect from skin, lung and oral cavity cancers.
- This vegetable also an excellent sources of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid those are essential for optimum cellular enzymatic and metabolic functions.
- Fresh rocket leaves contain good levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful, natural anti-oxidant. Foods rich in this vitamin help the human body protect from scurvy disease, develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity), and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
- Salad rocket is one of the excellent vegetable sources for vitamin-K; 100 g provides about 90% of recommended intake. Vitamin K has potential role in bone health by promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. In addition, adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain and thus, has established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
- Its leaves contain adequate levels of minerals, especially copper and iron. In addition, it has small amounts of some other essential minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.
In Italy, raw rocket is often added to pizzas just before the baking period ends or immediately afterwards, so that it will not wilt in the heat. 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 a condiment for cold meats and fish. In the Slovenian Littoral, it is often combined with boiled potatoes, used in a soup, or served with the cheese burek, especially in the town of Koper. It is also used with salad, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. In Rome, Italy rucola is used with special meat dish called straccietti that are thin slices of beef with raw rocket and Parmesan cheese.
A sweet, peppery digestive alcohol called rucolino is made from rocket on the 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.
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.
The plant is used in salads and omelets. An omelet with arugula (Greek rokka) is common in Cypriot restaurants.
The plant is commonly eaten raw as a side dish with many meals, with ful medames for breakfast, and regularly accompanies local seafood dishes.
Similarly, the rocket is eaten raw as a side dish / salad with fish, but is additionally with a sauce of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
West Asia 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.