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Arugula comes to many people as a surprise. That's because it looks like just another variety of lettuce. So people expect it to taste something like lettuce. But it doesn't. It tastes more like a radish.

For just a green leaf, arugula packs a very strong flavor. It's hot. It's peppery. Some people say it has a nutty, meaty quality. Others call it piquant and passionate.

There was a period during the Middle Ages, in fact, when the Church discouraged people from eating arugula, because of fears it might make them too passionate.

Just as some people don't like radishes because of their hotness, some people don't like arugula because of its hotness. People who do like it, however, usually eat it only in small amounts, as a peppery addition to their salads.


Arugula got its start on the foothills that surround the Mediterranean Sea. It has been picked there as a wild plant since the time of the Roman emperors.

It's now popular around the world. In most parts of the world it's called "rocket," perhaps because of the hot burn it leaves in your mouth. But in Italy it's called arugula, and that's the name we have chosen to use here in the U.S.

Until recently, arugula has been picked mostly as a wild plant. It has been cultivated on a large scale in the US only in the last 20 years.