When it comes to edibles and
comestibles, more than a few orphans are kicking around out there. By “orphans”
I mean the overlooked, the neglected, the misunderstood; the things we never
try because we think we don’t like them, or we don’t know how to use them and
are too afraid of looking food-stupid to ask.
So last week I asked vendors at
Whistler’s popular farmers’ market to open our eating horizons and palates and
wax eloquent about one item they thought people should give a try, or try again
with a fresh approach. The choices were beets, rutabagas and the natural
I’m guessing I could write an entire
book on the topic, because I had so many responses to my query that I felt I
had to run the rest of the suggestions this week lest I compound any
inferiority complex these overlooked foodstuffs might have.
So in the name of culinary adventure
and open-minded eating, please delve deeper into the unexplored side of the
Jordan Sturdy, a long-time market
stalwart who owns and operates North Arm Farm in Pemberton, admits that arugala
isn’t exactly an orphan. In fact, it’s a pretty hip item right now. But for
many people, like my dad, who seldom venture off the lettuce path for their
salad greens, trying arugala can be a real palate-popper.
This member of the cole family,
sometimes known as roquette or garden rocket, produces tender, lobed leaves
with the most amazing flavour — a combo of peppery spiciness and
nuttiness. The key word here is “tender”. For as Jordan points out, the leaves
must be picked at just the right time, before they get tough and when they’re
at the peak of their flavour.
When it comes to picking out just-right
arugala, Jordan has a few other tips he’d like to share.
“It should be fresh and bright green,
not wilted or dry. And it shouldn’t look wet — if it’s wet it gets all
slimy and black,” he says. That you don’t want.
“And I have to talk about holes. If
your arugala has holes in it, you know it hasn’t had a pesticide applied to it.
Look at it as diet arugala or something. You’re paying by the weight, so don’t
worry about the holes.”
North Arm Farms plants arugala
successively every two weeks from spring through to fall, so you’re sure to get
the best in tender pickings. When you get it home, wash it then dry it with a
salad spinner — the world’s best invention according to Jordan.