NJ Arugula, Red and Green Leaf Lettuce
Well today’s segment was shot back at Farms View Roadstand in Wayne, New Jersey, one of the last working farms in northern New Jersey. Their arugula and leaf lettuces, to my way of thinking, are the best I have ever eaten. This time of year when the weather is hot arugula and lettuces don't really do too good but they use a drip irrigation system that works great for them and keeps the lettuce from burning up. The Kuehm family had me out in the field picking lettuce, not a job I am suited to!!! But it was fun. So if you can't make it to the farm, here is some information on how to pick the best arugula and leaf lettuces when you are out shopping, and a quick tip, never wash until you are ready to use and store in your refrigerator in a paper bag (you get 2-3 more days out of them ).
I think arugula (ah-roo-goo-lah) is my favorite salad green. While this Italian favorite hasn't been discovered in all parts of the country yet, its popularity is growing. In New York City's Little Italy, you'll see people growing arugula in tiny backyard plots and even in pots on windowsills. Few self-respecting Italian cooks will go without it for long.
Also known as rocket or rocket salad in Great Britain and the United states, rucola in Italy, and roquette in France, arugula originated in the Mediterranean and was introduced to North America by Italian immigrants. It's another ancient cultivar-the Romans thought eating it would bring them good luck. It is now cultivated worldwide and is in such demand from restaurants that it is now grown world-wide and in greenhouses.
Arugula has fine, smooth, dark green leaves that are notched toward the bottom of the stem. A member of the mustard family and closely related to radishes, it has a sharp, spicy flavor that is somewhat similar to watercress, if it has no bite, it isn't fresh. The peppery taste actually gets hotter in the field as the weather gets hotter.
Available year round, arugula is most plentiful in the fall and spring, because it is a cool weather vegetable.
Always buy arugula with the roots still attached. It will lose its zip and flavor fast enough with them on-and even faster with them off. Look for bright, tender, fresh-looking leaves with no signs of yellowing or dark spots. They should not be at all limp.
Because the flavor and texture fade very fast, use arugula as soon as possible after purchasing. If you have to keep it a day or two, don't wash it or remove the roots-just sprinkle with a little water, wrap in paper towels or a clean cloth towel, put in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. Remove the roots and wash only when you're ready to use it. Arugula tends to be very sandy, so wash it well, as you would spinach.
Arugula makes a terrific salad all by itself, dressed with a little vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. It also adds a wonderful tart, peppery taste mixed into a saled of milder lettuces and greens. I think it's great on sandwiches, especially tomato sandwiches.
Arugula is delicious added raw to pasta with a little garlic and oil-the hot pasta steams is just enough. Or you can saute some minced garlic in olive oil, then toss in a bunch of arugula, saute briefly, and pour over cooked pasta. The oil will pick up the flavor of the arugula. Be careful not to overcook arugula or it will lose its characteristic peppery flavor.
Arugula can also be frozen or dried and used as an herd. When it's dried, it loses some of its bite, but not all of it, as it tends to do when it's overcooked.
Red and Green Leaf Lettuce
Red and green leaf lettuces are the most popular leaf lettuces, and the ones you'll readily find at the market. Both have very soft curly leaves and a semisweet taste. Red leaf lettuce is softer, sweeter, and also more fragile than the green. It makes a good salad, but it wilts and turns black very quickly, especially at the red tips of the leaves.
Green leaf lettuce is a little coarser and not quite as sweet, but it's a bit crisper. I love it on sandwiches.
Supplies from California and Florida are available year-round. Local leaf lettuces are available May thru the first frost.
You don't want to see any dark green or brown slime on leaf lettuces - a sign that the head will deteriorate very quickly. Look at the rib to make sure it's not discolored. As with iceberg and other head lettuces, the butt should be white to light brown, and there should be no pink color on the ribs, which indicates the lettuce has had too much rain and will rot quickly in your refrigerator.
Red leaf lettuce is probably the most fragile of all the lettuces. The tender red edges of the leaves deteriorate rapidly and should be used as soon as possible after purchase.
Red and green leaf lettuces contain large amounts of Vitamin A and K, Calcium, Iron plus, Antioxidants, and Beta carotene.
Other recipes from Produce Pete.