Yellowish-flowered European herbaceous plant (Eruca vesicaria sativa), of the mustard family, cultivated for its foliage, which is used especially in salads. The leaves taste sharp and peppery when young and succulent but become bitter with age. A medicinal oil is extracted from the seeds.
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Eruca sativa (syn. E. vesicaria subsp. sativa (Miller) Thell., Brassica eruca L.), also known as arugula or rocket, is an edible plant. It is a species of Eruca native to the Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal east to Jordan and Turkey. It is closely related to Eruca vesicaria and included by some botanists in that either as a subspecies E. vesicaria subsp. sativa or not distinguished at all; it can be distinguished from E. vesicaria by its early deciduous sepals.
It is an annual plant growing to 20–100 cm tall. The leaves are deeply pinnately lobed with four to ten small lateral lobes and a large terminal lobe. The flowers are 2–4 cm diameter, arranged in a corymb, with the typical Brassicaceae flower structure; the petals are creamy white with purple veins, and the stamens yellow; the sepals are shed soon after the flower opens. The fruit is a siliqua (pod) 12–35 mm long with an apical beak, and containing several seeds (which are edible). The species has a chromosome number of 2n = 22.
Vernacular names include Garden Rocket, Rocket, Eruca, Rocketsalad, Arugula (American English), Rucola (Italian), Rukola (Slovenian, Polish), Rugola (Italian), Rauke (German), Roquette (French), Rokka (Greek), Roka (Turkish), Ruca (Catalan), Beharki (Basque), Rúcula, Oruga and Arúgula (Spanish), Rúcula (Portuguese), Ruchetta (Italian) and Rughetta (Italian). The term arugula (variations of Italian dialects around arigola) is used by the Italian diaspora in Australia and North America and from there picked up as a loan word to a varying degree in American and Australian English, particularly in culinary usage. The names ultimately all derive from the Latin word eruca, a name for an unspecified plant in the family Brassicaceae, probably a type of cabbage.
It is used as a leaf vegetable, which looks like a longer leaved and open lettuce. It is rich in vitamin C and potassium. It is frequently cultivated, although domestication cannot be considered complete. It has been grown in the Mediterranean area since Roman times, and was considered an aphrodisiac. Before the 1990s it was usually collected in the wild and was not cultivated on a large scale or researched scientifically. In addition to the leaves, the flowers (often used in salads as an edible garnish), young seed pods and mature seeds are all edible.
It is now cultivated in various places, especially in Veneto, Italy, but is available throughout the world. It is also locally naturalised away from its native range in temperate regions around the world, including northern Europe and North America. In India, the mature seeds are known as Gargeer.
It has a rich, peppery taste, and is exceptionally strongly flavoured for a leafy green. It is generally used in salads but also cooked as a vegetable with pastas or meats and in coastal Slovenia (especially Koper/Capodistria), it is added to the cheese burek. In Italy, it is often used in pizzas, added just before the baking period ends or immediately afterwards, so that it can wilt in the heat. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in pesto, either in addition to basil or as a (non-traditional) substitute.
On the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples, a digestive alcohol called rucolino is made from the plant, a drink often enjoyed in small quantities following a meal. The liquor is a local specialty enjoyed in the same way as a limoncello or grappa and has a sweet peppery taste that washes down easily.