One of the things that sets arugula apart from other salad greens is its defining taste. Take one bite of its crisp leaves, and you’ll notice it has a definitively spicy flavor.
But what exactly makes arugula taste peppery? The answer to that question is surprisingly complex and comes down to elements you may have never heard of.
We’ll dive deep into the spicy components of arugula in this quick post.
Quick Answer: Why Does Arugula Taste Peppery?
Arugula’s famous peppery taste comes down to chemical compounds within it. It contains a high amount of sulfur, which has compounds called glucosinolates.
Read Also: What Does Arugula Taste Like?
Glucosinolates and Where Else You Can Find Them
Glucosinolates are found in a lot of other foods. You’ll find that, in most foods these compounds appear in, there’s a common spiciness and pungency.
For instance, mustard and horseradish both have glucosinolates in them. Both of these condiments are well known for their hot and zesty flavors.
That’s not to say that everything with glucosinolates is well-known for being spicy. Cabbage also has these compounds in it, yet there are some types that are known for their sweetness.
Does Arugula Always Taste Peppery?
Despite its chemical makeup, it’s not necessarily correct to assume that arugula always tastes the same. At various points in its lifespan, the flavor can change.
When it’s really young, for example, arugula’s taste is much milder. For that reason, some people prefer to harvest arugula when the leaves are small and young.
Generally speaking, the older arugula gets, the bitterer it gets. After a few weeks of growth, when the leaves are around three to four inches in length, it reaches the point where most people find its bitterness acceptable.
Eventually, arugula grows white flowers. When it gets to this point, its bitter taste reaches a peak, and culinary enthusiasts typically assert that it’s not worth eating anymore.
However, it’s important to mention that arugula’s flowers are, in fact, edible. They’re described as having the same peppery flavor profile that arugula has.
When arugula starts to go bad, its taste sours and becomes earthy. Obviously, it’s not suitable for eating when it decays like this.
Arugula also tastes different when it’s been cooked. If you don’t like the bitterness of raw arugula, you might appreciate the milder taste it takes on after cooking.
Arugula’s peppery flavor is beloved around the world. But we don’t often stop to wonder why things taste a certain way, and that includes this spicy veggie.
We can attribute arugula’s popular taste to its glucosinolates. Regardless of the causes, though, most people can agree that this is one delicious salad green.