More than mittens, more than a muffler, it’s a bright-Granny-Smith-green bed of arugula that gets me through the winter. With a suave texture and a great peppery bite — like mustard’s, but without the earthy, cabbage flavor of turnip greens and kale — arugula is the princess of brassicas. Arugula sown between late September and early November can be harvested until the first prolonged freeze. For a reliable stream of winter arugula, it needs the protection of a cold frame or greenhouse, but it more than earns a berth in such cushy surroundings, because it tastes like spring.
Arugula can be used in cooking, I suppose. Pesto sauce in which arugula substitutes for basil has its fans, but I always miss that basil flavor. I have been known to tuck arugula into omelets at the last minute, just because the sight of its color takes the chill off a winter morning. But generally, heat tames the flavor too much for my taste. Those who, on the other hand, find its bite too extreme might wilt it slightly with a warm dressing, or mix it with other soft greens. But what soft greens? Butterhead lettuces at this time of year tend to be imported from distant fields, or are blandly hydroponic.