What is Rucola?

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What is Rucola?
Also known as arugula, eruca, Italian cress, garden rocket, rocket, or roquette, rucola is an edible green leafy plant that belongs to the mustard family. Its scientific name is eruca vesicaria sativa and is said to be found only in countries near the Mediterranean region particularly Portugal, Turkey, Lebanon, and Morocco.

Rucola is an annual plant related to watercresses and radishes. It could grow from about 8 inches up to almost 40 inches in height. Its leaves can grow as big as 8 inches in length while its flowers are usually 2 to 4 cm in diameter. Since the Roman times, rucola has been grown on dry ground as vegetables. It was said that the Romans used rucola leaves for cooking vegetable dishes and the rucola seeds were used as flavoring for oil. The Romans also started using the rucola plant to make aphrodisiacs and substances used for medicinal purposes.

Rucola is said to contain lots of vitamins and minerals including folate, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamins C and A. It is also very low in calories and the leaves can be eaten raw, mixed with salads, or cooked as normal vegetables. Many people also prefer to have rucola sautéed and added to pasta dishes, much like the pesto version that people are more familiar of. Some people also use it along with grilled meat because of its strong flavor and peppery taste.

Rucola is now planted and cultivated in other countries like Italy, India, some parts of northern Europe and North America. But the rucola plant and/or leaves are easily perishable so they should be used almost immediately after harvesting. Otherwise, the leaves can be stored on refrigerators for only about two days. And since rucola has a very strong flavor, it is advised that the leaves be thoroughly washed with water before using.

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