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Grazia arugula grows low to the ground in a compact and upright shape, comprised of branching stems with uniform, deeply lobed, and flat leaves. The leaves are generally harvested small in size and are slender, smooth, and bright green with prominent veining and lightly serrated edges. The leaves are also attached to a pale green, fibrous stem, contributing to the leaf’s crisp, succulent, and slightly chewy consistency. In the late summer, Grazia arugula produces yellow flowers atop a long central stem. Grazia arugula has a mild, sweet, and peppery flavor with a tender texture when picked young. The leaves can also be harvested mature, developing a spicy, pungent taste with bitter, grassy, and nutty undertones.
Grazia arugula is available in the spring through the summer.
Grazia arugula, botanically classified as Diplotaxis tenuifolia, is a pungent, peppery perennial belonging to the Brassicaceae or mustard family. The name Grazia translates from Italian to mean “grace,” and the variety is considered an improved cultivar of wild arugula or wild rocket. Wild arugula is known for its robust flavor but notoriously has a short shelf life. Grazia arugula was selectively bred to showcase specific characteristics of wild arugula while blending new traits like slow-bolting and a longer shelf-life. The small plant has a compact nature, growing 25 to 30 centimeters in height, and can tolerate hot and cold temperatures, developing distinct flavors and textures. The herbaceous plant is also valued for its ability to attract pollinators if left to flower. For culinary use, Grazia arugula can be collected in its baby leaf stage or at full maturity and can produce multiple harvests throughout the season as a cut and come again variety.
Grazia arugula is an excellent source of vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning and vitamin C to strengthen the immune system while reducing inflammation. The peppery greens also provide calcium to protect bones and teeth and lower amounts of folate, iron, vitamin K, copper, zinc, and magnesium. In addition to vitamins and minerals, Grazia arugula contains glucosinolates, which are compounds believed to have detoxifying properties and also give the leaves their pungent, bitter flavor.
Grazia arugula has an herbal, nutty, and spicy flavor well suited for fresh and lightly cooked applications such as sautéing, steaming, braising, blanching, and stir-frying. It is important to note that Grazia arugula is derived from wild arugula and will contain a much stronger flavor than commercial arugula cultivars. The greens can be used as a vegetable or an herb, and they can be utilized fresh, added at the end of cooked applications, or lightly cooked to create a milder flavor. The use of vinegar, fats, olive oils, or citrus will also help tame the green’s peppery flavor. Grazia arugula can be tossed fresh into salads, used as an edible bed for roasted meats, layered into sandwiches and burgers, or blended into sauces such as pesto. The leaves can also be lightly steamed and folded into savory crepes, cooked into omelets or quiche, combined with potatoes as a side dish, or stirred into soups and stews. In Italy, Grazia arugula is frequently used as a topping over pizza or is lightly braised and incorporated into pasta and rice dishes. Grazia arugula pairs well with tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, radishes, beets, nuts such as walnuts, pine, or almonds, fruits including strawberries, blueberries, pears, blood oranges, and lemons, and meats such as beef, pork, poultry, and turkey. Fresh Grazia arugula will keep up to ten days when wrapped in a paper towel and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator's crisper drawer.
Wild arugula varieties were a favored green harvested fresh and combined into salad blends in local markets throughout the Provence region in southeastern France. In the mid to late 20th century, French farmers would pile large, loose-leafed mixes of greens they chose to harvest that morning to create flavorful blends with sweet, piquant, bitter, or earthy flavors. These mixes were eventually known as mesclun in 1976, derived from the French word “mesclar” meaning “mixture.” Mesclun greens traditionally included local varieties of arugula, oak leaf, chervil, mustard greens, frisee, endive, spinach, or dandelion greens, and the French farmers would create their unique mixes to differentiate themselves from other growers at the market. When famous Chef Alice Waters visited Provence and experienced these mixes for the first time, she purchased many seeds from France and planted them in her backyard in Northern California. Waters recreated the fresh, herbaceous mixes she tasted in France and began serving the blends at her restaurant Chez Panisse, popularizing fresh salads in California cuisine and leading the movement for salad mixes across the United States.
Wild Arugula is believed to be native to temperate regions of Western Asia and the Mediterranean and has been growing wild since ancient times. The plant's first written record dates back to the 1st century CE, and the spicy greens were widely used in Ancient Egyptian and Roman civilizations. Later in the Middle Ages, the greens were naturalized in regions of Northern and Western Europe and became a common salad green incorporated in both upper class and civilian kitchens. Grazia arugula is believed to be a modern Italian variety of wild arugula. There are many varieties of wild arugula cultivated across the Mediterranean. While the exact history of Grazia arugula is unknown, the cultivar grows well in both cold and warm climates and has extended storage capabilities, two characteristics that make it stand out from other wild arugula varieties. It is also one of the few wild arugula varieties that can grow in semi-humid environments. Today Grazia arugula is cultivated through commercial growers and sown in home gardens as a pest-resistant plant. Once harvested, the piquant greens are sold through farmer’s markets and specialty grocers.
Recipes that include Grazia Arugula. One is easiest, three is harder.