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A member of the mustard family, arugula has a stronger taste than mustard greens or turnip greens, and more closely resembles watercress, though it is less peppery and more florid in flavour than watercress is.

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Since arugula is highly perishable, it is best kept in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Arugula leaves often turn yellow quickly, but they hold their flavour well. The leaves can be sandy and should be carefully washed.

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Origins and Culture

Despite its humble origins as peasant food, arugula has acquired a reputation more recently in our culture as an exotic and gourmet green with a mysterious and changeable flavour.

Part of the mystery might come from the name itself. In Canada, by calling arugula 'arugula,' we use an Italian name, even though you'll also hear arugula referred to as 'rucola' or 'ruchetta' in Italy. The Flemish call it 'krapkool.' In France it's 'roquette.' And in Great Britain it's 'rocket.'

Native to the Mediterranean and Asian region, arugula has long been standard fare among peasants throughout southern France, Greece and especially Italy, where it is picked wild.

In fact, going way back in history, part of a typical Roman meal was to offer a salad of greens, frequently arugula, romaine, chicory, mallow and lavender, and seasoned with a "cheese sauce for lettuce."

The language of flowers was a Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, usually of a romantic nature, and thereby allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken. Given arugulas high-spirited nature, it is not surprising that it symbolized rivalry between lovers.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Arugula is a cancer fighter that ranks higher than lettuce, chicory, romaine and watercress in beta-carotene, vitamin C and calcium. It also contains more calcium than kale, the "king of calcium."

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Basic Cooking Instructions

Arugula is great in salads and pasta. You can also enjoy arugula on its own, mixed with fresh tomatoes or on a sandwich. For a delicious taste sensation, try making a tomato, avocado and arugula sandwich. It also mixes well with citrus, especially oranges.

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