Rucola, Arugula, Rocket salad: The Mediterranean plant with the scientific name eruca sativa is known under many names. Already the Romans enjoyed rucola, like I call it. They considered it an aphrodisiac. However, it was not cultivated on a large scale or scientifically explored before the 1990s.
Nowadays, rucola is widely used all over the world. Italians love it as a pizza topping which is added after baking to avoid wilting. On the Italian island Ischia people make a digestive liqueur called rucolino from the plant.
There is no other green edible leaf which carries such a rich, peppery taste. This taste indicates the hidden treasures of rucola. It is stuffed with phyto-nutrients which help prevent cancer, strengthen the immune system and have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
Rucola is a good source for folate which is especially important for pregnant women. It provides a lot of vitamin A, B vitamins and vitamin C. It also contains a lot of vitamin K making it an excellent choice for the elderly. Only 100 grams of rucola deliver 90 % of the recommended daily dose of vitamin K which is crucial for bone formation and healthy brain cells. Vitamin K is used to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This plant also contains many minerals, especially iron, copper and potassium.
Some years ago there were media reports in Europe about big amounts of pesticide residue in rucola and there were warnings not to consume it frequently. My research on the internet did not give me any conclusive information. Anyway, in India it is difficult to estimate how much pollution is in the food we consume. Occasionally there are horror stories in the media. Some time ago I read that practically all Indian honey is contaminated with pesticide and antibiotic residues.
Rucola is not a common vegetable in India yet. I praise myself lucky when I find it in the market. It is more commonly sold in Goan supermarkets which cater to a foreign clientele. In North Goa, some supermarket owners grow their own rucola. Honestly, I don’t think we should worry too much about pesticides in this vegetable. I wash it well and hope the health benefits more than compensate the damages caused by pollution.