While campaigning, Obama asked a group of Iowans, “Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula? I mean, they’re charging a lot of money for this stuff.” Obama was trying to make a point that prices at grocery stores have risen, yet farmers haven’t seen their prices go up. Detractors were quick to point out that there are no Whole Foods stores in Iowa. Arugula-gate was born. Suddenly, arugula became a symbol of elitism, a vegetable litmus test.
I wonder how arugula felt about all this.
After all, arugula hails from humble origins. It’s a weed, native to the Mediterranean and Middle East. It’s not arugula’s fault that its mustardy spiciness has gone unappreciated in the U.S. until the nineties when it started appearing in overpriced salads (you may have also seen it called Rocket.) If you asked arugula, it would tell you that it’s easy to grow. No special equipment or costly materials are needed. Anyone with a patch of dirt can have arugula in no time. It’s low in calories and high in nutrients.
Interestingly, arugula is similar to watercress, which is a native weed here in Denver. In the Italian neighborhood not far from from The Weekly Veggie headquarters, it wasn’t uncommon for folks to collect watercress from along the Platte River many years ago.
Arugula made an appearance at the Denver Urban Homesteading market this week. One bunch was available for $1.00!
I don’t think Ed, who grew the arugula in his backyard greenhouse, knows what arugula costs at Whole Foods either. Otherwise he’d be selling it for quite a bit more.
I had the pleasure of visiting Ed’s greenhouse, to see the source of the argula myself. Ed calls it “the arugula monster.”
Here it is close-up.
These are arugula flowers (which you can also eat), with cool tree house in the background. Yes, it was snowing….
Ed’s arugula was surprisingly peppery. One D.U.H. market-goer commented “now this is what arugula is supposed to taste like.” I’ve had arugula on pizza. You can saute it too. But I wanted to enjoy this arugula raw. I mixed in some milder bibb leaf lettuce, added some roasted red beets, walnuts, blue cheese and sweet onions, and was in veggie heaven. My first fresh local vegetable in 2010! Thank you Ed! And thank you arugula!
Want more veggies? Check out last week’s veggie story: Purple Top Turnips. Not Just Animal Fodder. New veggie stories every Thursday.
Did you see last week’s market photos? Click here for Monday Dose of Market: Vendors at the Denver Indoor Farmers’ Market. New photos every Monday.
New to The Weekly Veggie? Read how it all began with My Childhood Vegetable Nemesis.