It’s September now, which means we can start growing crops that like cooler temperatures. Many fresh greens can’t survive the soaring summer temperatures, and if they do, they won’t produce for that long before they go to seed. Here on the farm, we recognize the popularity of and demand for fresh greens during the year, so we invest heavily in extending the season using passive solar tunnels which enable us to provide leafy vegetables through the winter. Right now we are seeing the first wave of brassicas come up, including one of our favorites: arugula.
Arugula has the ability to either assimilate or take charge, depending on how it is utilized in a dish. It is highly flavorful, and therefore may be used to further accent an otherwise uninteresting salad mix, or compliment heavier savory dishes. Texturally, it is normally much more resilient than lettuces, which means it can perform under hot or cold conditions, like on a grilled cheese, a pizza, or a plate of braised meat. Folded into pastas, its mustardy, toasty heat can cut through rich and redundant flavors, creating a lighter feel to dishes that are normally heavy and cloying. It can bring a brightness to pesto, allowing you to lower the amount of raw garlic needed, and it makes a welcome addition to any soup or stew.
Here’s what we’ve been eating with our arugula on the farm this week:
Roasted Pepper, Blistered Cherry Tomato, and Grilled Corn Vinaigrette
2# Mix of Sweet and Spicy Peppers (bells, marconi, carmen, shishito, anaheim, tobago, etc.)
one pint cherry tomatoes
6 ears sweet corn
¼ cup finely chopped celery leaves
½ cup olive oil
¼ apple cider vinegar
Take peppers, and tomatoes and mix in a little vegetable oil. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and place in the oven under the broiler set on high. Turn occasionally to make sure everything gets roasted and blistered evenly, and remove when fruits begin to release their own juice and show a good amount of charring. Allow to cool to room temp. Repeat the same process with the shucked ears of corn, but instead of using the broiler, either use an outdoor grill or a very hot cast iron pan to get very dark marks on the kernels. Once the corn is grilled evenly, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temp. Remove seeds from peppers and chop roughly, adding them to a big mixing bowl. Add cherry tomatoes, as well as their juices they’ve released to the bowl. Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from the corn cobs, and add the rest of the ingredients accept for the arugula and salt to the bowl to make a broken vinaigrette. Season with salt to taste, and add an appropriate amount to however much arugula you want to eat! This is a delicious and seasonal salad that we love to eat for lunch whenever we can.
Storing arugula is not super difficult, but it requires just a few extra steps. It needs to be very, very dry so that it doesn’t begin to rot, and it also needs aeration to improve the flow of air in the bag. To meet all these requirements make sure you have dry greens to begin with, and add a few paper towels to a perforated bag, allowing you to wick moisture away from the leaves. Store in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator and replace the paper towels every few days so they don’t get too soggy. You will certainly extend the lifespan of your greens in this manner, eliminating waste, and getting the best value you can from your fresh produce!