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Arugula...rarely fresh/undesirable taste?

For years, I have been confused by arugula. I know it is supposed to be spicy and bitter, but it often seems to just taste bad to me. I can't even put my finger on the flavor, but it is undesirable for sure.

However, as an open-minded & food loving person, I don't go out of my way to avoid it and sometimes I will have it and it tastes just fine--still not my favorite, but it doesn't leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Anyway, I just read something yesterday about it being highly perishable and that it should be eaten within 2 days of harvesting for the best flavor. This made me wonder how often I am actually having arugula that even tastes like it should??

It also made me think that using it as part of mixed greens probably doesn't make a lot of since if it spoils faster than other greens, but it is pretty popular in spring mix.

Just wanted to throw this out there to see if anyone else has had this thought or has any other comments.

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  1. I have found that there is a huge difference between arugula that I buy in the store and what I grow in the garden The store bought stuff has a slightly pungent taste. Its ok, but not everyone likes it. The fresh stuff from the garden is an entirely different thing. Its peppery distinctive stuff. You can smell the flavors as your harvest it. That's the stuff I crave. Its easy to grow. Here in the northeast, its one of the first things we plant as it grows quickly. It bolts to seed when it gets warm. Can't grow it during the heat of the summer but you can get another crop in during the fall before it freezes. Try growing your own or buy the stuff at farmer's markets where the roots are still attached and there is dirt on the leaves. The packaged stuff in stores is only when you can't get the real stuff.

    1. There are zillions of varieties of arugula, and they vary a great deal. Even within the same variety it will display a lot of variation depending on the growing conditions.
      I love arugula, and I love it strong and spicy, but it does not go with everything.

      IME it spoils at the same rate or more slowly than a lot of the other greens in packaged spring mix. And also IME, that is usually BABY arugula, which really has no flavor compared to the real thing.
      Full grown arugula by itself is actually sort of hard to come by unless you grow it or get in a CSA share. I suppose because people don't like the assertive flavor.

      FWIW, most or all tender greens are highly perishable, so that's not unique to arugula, but I routinely store freshly picked arugula for a week + without significant fading. It depends a lot on how it has been handled. If greens get crushed or bent at all during harvesting and preliminary washing, that really shortens their life span.

      1 Reply
      1. re: splatgirl

        Brava! There are many varieties of arugula and you are right that the so-called baby is tasteless. It should taste peppery and lasts approximately the same amount of time as other salad greens. We often keep it for a week. Plunge it into ice water for a facelift if it gets floppy.

      2. In my arugula experience: store bought isn't every all that flavorful. Then I get it from my CSA (usually larger leaves) that is too spicy and bitter for me to eat plain/raw. Then, every once in awhile I get a delivery of smaller leaf arugula from my CSA and it is soooo yummy. Even my DH went bananas over a salad I made with CSA "baby" arugula and pears. This thread has me thinking that maybe my farmer is planting two different types. I had at first thought that she was harvesting past the yummy baby stage. I will have to email and ask her. I'll post her reply here.

        4 Replies
        1. re: pagesinthesun

          Try the really spicy stuff with watermelon and feta. Bliss!

          1. re: splatgirl

            hmmm, that a new one. I will give this a try. I struggle to use up the spicy stuff! thanks!

            1. re: splatgirl

              This sounds awesome. Do you drizzle anything; oil/vin, vinaigrette, on it?

              1. re: chloebell

                sure. any/all. cracked pepper and a sprinkle of salt, too. also delicious with blue or gorgonzola instead of feta

          2. For about a year I've been buying arugula at our local co-op and loving it. I recently had to buy some of the clamshell stuff at Safeway. SO inferior.

            1. There is considerable variation in taste, bitterness, etc. but I find that it does store well compared to other greens.

              1. The thing I was pondering is "does the flavor start to change before it visibly appears to be wilting/going bad?"

                Honestly, considering no one else has commented about it just tasting terrible sometimes has made me wonder if it is like cilantro...where there are claims that some have a genetic predisposition to dislike it. (I LOVE cilantro btw.)
                When I taste arugula that tastes "bad" to me, it doesn't come across as too spicy or too bitter, it just tastes really undesirable.

                That said, I am definitely going to look for some from a co-op or farmer's market and try that and see what I think. Perhaps I need to accept that I just don't like arugula, but I know so many people seem to love it that I keep trying it again and again.

                Strangely enough, the last arugula I had that I found to be pretty pleasant was from an herb mix green blend from Wal-Mart of all places.

                2 Replies
                1. re: bte576

                  I find that it tastes just awful also. I have tried different varieties, grown my own, eaten at restaurants and have never liked it. To me, it almost tastes like dirty socks. I wonder if it's a genetic thing? I love cilantro too.

                  1. re: earthygoat

                    Thanks, glad I am not the only one!

                2. I grew some in Tennessee now and then. When it got too strong for salad (according to Mrs. O - I like it even when it's starting to bite back) I made pesto with it; this was not so great on pasta, but for stirring into soups or sauces it was pretty good. The big hit was when I beat some into sour cream with a little mayo and put it out as a crudités dip.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Will Owen

                    OHHH I am going to try that dip idea. I do think the bossy stuff really shines paired with something dairy intense and creamy.
                    +1 on the arugula pesto. It's also a good fairly neutral filler in any other herb pesto that would be too strong on it's own.

                    1. re: splatgirl

                      I'm thinking that the base was actually cream cheese and sour cream - that's what we were all doing party dips with in the '80s. Just to date this, it was served on the buffet at the opening of some friends' disco club!

                  2. I love arugula. I had a couple handfuls left over and thanks to a comment about walnut oil over on the simple vinaigrette thread, I drizzled a bit over the arugula and a few slivers of red onion, tossed to coat. Then I added salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon. Delicious! The walnut oil and arugula go so well together.

                    1. In South West Florida, the growing season is full swing; I grow a variety of Arugula, (rucola), that is an organic Italian seed by Franchi Sementi, this is my 3rd planting this season that I am now harvesting. The interesting thing about Rucola is that when very young, 2-3 inches it has a very mild, almost no taste, taste; when it gets a little more growth, maybe 45 days it developes a peppery flavor, when it is post peak and very tough in texture, the taste is best described as somewhat "skunky", It is best used at this stage on top of a pizza just out of the oven, or flash sauteed. There are countless varieties of Rucola, this one from Franchi Sementi, seems to be to my liking more than others.


                      1. Arugula is about the worst thing I have ever tasted. Even worse than liver. I included it in a batch of greens that I cold pressed and in a couple of smoothies and I couldn't figure what was causing them to be so distasteful. I mean, bad. I finally figured out it was the arugula, but since I have a personal rule that I don't throw out bad tasting batches of juices or smoothies, I am forced to drink 7 pints of green skunk.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: henrybemis

                          Without having tasted all the ingredients, you made SEVEN PINTS of it???

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Yes, but I did it on my Norwalk juicer, and if you are familiar with a Norwalk, it isn't all that easy to taste a sample because you have to triturate first then prepare for the cold pressing part. It's not like a centrifugal juicer where you can taste it as the first few ounces pour out. It is possible to sample but just much more of a hassle than other juicers.

                        2. This topic is resurrected biennially. Evidently there are some people who think Arugula tastes like soap or worse. I sympathize.

                          For those of you who like it, try raising it yourself instead of getting the old leaves at the grocery. It is VERY easy to grow from seed, in the garden, or in a pot on your patio, and you can pick baby leaves for salads to thin the crop, and harvest the spicier older leaves later for western dishes.

                          I don't think it spoils faster than other greens, but I try to use up all salad fixin's in 2-3 days anyway.