Arugula Flowers

Post image for Arugula Flowers

I was taught to harvest my arugula plants before they bolted and flowered because it would turn the leaves from tender and spicy to bitter and tough. It turns out, though, that bolting arugula has its own edible gift–the pale, cross-shaped flowers. They are delicious, delicately spicy and even a little sweet.

I didn’t know this a couple of weeks ago when I had lunch with friends at Fiola, Fabio Trabocchi’s new restaurant in Washington, D.C. Among the wonderful dishes we enjoyed was a shaved spring salad with fennel and baby fava beans. The salad was adorned with small, pale cream and purple cross-shaped flowers. I meant to ask what they were, but, wrapped up in lunchtime conversation, I forgot. Instead, I ate the salad but left the flower garnishes on my plate.

Which, it turns out, is too bad for me. Last weekend, while farmers’ market hopping with my friend Cathy Barrow (aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow on Twitter), I came across those very same delicate, almost spidery flowers, gently packed in a container and set out on a table at the Lafayette-Broad Branch Farmers’ Market. The farmer, Haroun Hallack, of Red Bud Farm in West Virginia, identified them as arugula flowers and let me sample a few. My first thought was “Idiot! Why did you leave those on your lunch plate last week?!”

I made amends to my short-shrifted self by buying a container (at $5 the flowers were not cheap, but there were a lot of them). I added them to our dinner salad, and sprinkled a handful on a French-style potato salad that we brought to friends the next day. There are lots of other ways you could use arugula flowers in cooking–float a few on top of a cold spring or summer soup, fold them into a frittata, or even toss a few on top of a beautifully grilled steak. For all their delicacy, they pack quite a flavorful punch.

Don’t try to save them, though. I found out—again the hard way—that these lovely little flowers, once picked, are extremely perishable–even more so than squash blossoms. By Monday, the remaining few left in the container and stored in my fridge, had turned yellow and wilted. I am not the swiftest person, but I think I finally got it. Who knew that such a small flower could hold such a big life lesson?

Buon Appetito, and remember to enjoy everything that graces your plate.

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17 Responses to Arugula Flowers

  1. Cathy May 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    What a lovely post. And that photo is gorgeous! I hope there will be some of those flowers this weekend! I’m regretting not buying them.

    • Domenica May 13, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

      I had such fun going marketing with you Cathy. We will have to do it again!

  2. Aviva Goldfarb May 13, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    I just learned something, too! Thanks for teaching me about a lovely new food, and reminding me to seize the day–or at least, the flower.

    • Domenica May 13, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Aviva. Isn’t it wonderful how many surprises nature holds for us (corny but true!)

  3. Nancy Baggett May 13, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    Hi, you need to do a post on your new book–I didn’t miss it did I? Don’t be modest–people who visit are interested in it! (Not every post should be about it, but, some coverage would be great–it’s news!) IMHO, of course!

    • Domenica May 13, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

      You haven’t missed it Nancy. Official release date is June 1, though it is available on Amazon this week, I believe. I have a couple of posts planned, plus book signings and other events, so stay tuned. And thank you!

  4. LiztheChef May 14, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    Wish I could join you and Cathy at the market…These gorgeous flowers are new to me and I will look for them in our San Diego markets. Great shot!

    • Domenica May 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

      We’d love to have you, Liz! Thank you for your comment.

  5. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle May 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    Something absolutely new to me…and they are so beautiful aren’t they. Can’t think of anything I would rather do than stroll a market with you and Cathy.

    • Domenica May 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

      Wouldn’t it be fun, Barb! Cathy knows all the farmers and they know her. I had a blast.

  6. kellypea @ sass & veracity June 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Thank you for this! I have allowed some of my arugula to go to bloom, pinching off the rest as I routinely do. I love to look at the pretty flowers, but had no idea of their delicate taste. Can’t wait to try your suggestions. Beautiful photo of them!

    • Domenica June 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. I love discovering something new and surprising about a familiar ingredient. Enjoy!

  7. Haroun Hallack June 5, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    Awesome photo! We are glad you stop by – Mrs. Wheelbarrow is great supporter of our farmers’ market. Very nice post. Visit us again this summer – you never know what you will find.

    • Domenica June 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

      Thank you, Haroun. I promise I’ll be back for more goodies from your market. Looking forward to it!

  8. Joshua June 6, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Cool, I never thought you could eat the flowers too!

    • Domenica June 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Joshua. I know–don’t you love these kinds of discoveries?

  9. krisgal September 19, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    I routinely allow my rocket to bolt, as I like to harvest my own seeds for next year.
    Never occurred to me to try eating the flowers though.
    Cheers for the tip, I’m off to my garden now to try some of these flowers.

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