Old and Tough Arugula Recipe

Mesclun growing in garden

It's June in Erie, PA, and the late spring weather is settling in with highs in the 70's and lows in the 50's, with plenty of rain. I planted a whole bunch of mesclun about a month ago in my raised garden bed, and the arugula has basically outcompeted everything else. While all of the other tender leaves (oak leaf, lettuce, mizuna, etc.) are finally just ripe for picking, the arugula has past prime and become big, tough, hairy, and ridiculously bitter.

Arugula growing in garden

So what to do with super strong arugula? It's just too tangy for a salad at this point. I'm treating it like any other bitter green. I figured out a few techniques while trying to cook dandelion a while back, and it's working for the arugula.

  • blanching in salted water for about 10 seconds takes away about 50% of the tanginess
  • stir-fry in oil takes away another 30% of the punch
  • using bacon as the oil just makes anything yummy
  • add chopped garlic and the greens just pop
Washing arugula

Adding garlic is an Asian stir-fry technique. There are lots of leafy brassica family vegetables like bok choy, tatsoi, rapeseed, Chinese mustard, A-choy, and many others that can be quite bitter, especially in summer heat. Adding garlic lets you focus on the garlicky flavor which masks the bite the brassica greens sometimes have.

There you have it. Getting late spring leaves that are a bit past prime to be more palatable is possible with blanching, salt, oil, and garlic.

Cooked stir-fry arugula with garlic

As my arugula begins to bolt with the warm spring, I expect we'll be eating the last of them next week. I'm super looking forward to the tender leafy greens the summer produces!

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