I started picking up my weekly “farm box” from Nash’s Organic Produce last month, and have already received a couple of bunches of arugula. I *love* arugula!! But I have friends who find it too bitter, just as some people find broccoli or Brussels sprouts too bitter.
Guess what? It’s genetic!
Some people have more sensitive taste receptors than other people, and this includes sweet and salty tastes as well as bitterness. These people are sometimes called supertasters. Supertasters perceive a greater bitterness in foods from the Brassica family (kale, broccoli, cabbage… arugula) although some studies have shown that the sensitivity does not correlate directly with avoidance of them.
Though the phenomenon of varying sensitivity was observed in laboratories many decades ago, only in the last ten years have scientists nailed down the genetic details. A science article in The Guardian newspaper (UK) summarizes the details nicely.
Personally, I find arugula slightly bitter, peppery, and a great base or addition to salads. I love it steamed in pasta with a light sauce (a couple of chopped fresh tomatoes sauteed with onion and garlic, and add chopped arugula for the last couple of minutes, then pour over and toss with steaming hot pasta). I also had arugula in Italy cooked in a light gravy with beef or veal, a delicious combination.
So how about you–yes or no to arugula? And if you like it, what’s your favorite way to prepare it?