The first time I ever had arugula was in the Willoughby’s kitchen. Somehow or other there is always food in that house, food to preserve and have appear later, food to pick from the vine. A little of this, a little of that, it’s always there. The other day, Sally Willoughby picked one hundred pounds of cherries—one hundred pounds! They were preserved by the end of the day.

We have work days at the Old Pine Farm. We time them to go with the day the fire hall is selling their two dollar hoagies. After the pleasant camaraderie of an hour’s work pulling out invasive plants or trimming back trees, we have our picnic. In warm weather, it’s down by the Timber Creek at the big picnic table that the Boy Scouts built.

But it was fall, so we crowded around the kitchen table. A table can hold any number of people who adore each other. You sit back, front, all around, but you’re still at the table. We of course had our fire hall hoagies, and then out came special Willoughby additions to the meal. There were nuts that someone had brought. There was a huge, dark farmhouse loaf all loaded with fruit, made by George. And of course, there was arugula.

Where in the world do people get arugula? I had never seen it or even heard of it before. It looked a bit like spinach and tasted slightly unpleasant. I guess you could get used to the taste, if you had no choice. It looks delicate with its small leaves growing out from the stem. Surprisingly, it tastes healthy.

Our son has lately been on a quest to make us eat arugula. He’s told us to stop buying useless lettuce, to stop using rich salad creams. With arugula, soy sauce, lemon, and balsamic vinegar, all stomach problems will disappear. Arugula is the magic potion.

Fortunately, until now there has been no regular source, but starting Wednesday, summer begins in New Jersey, and we make weekly pilgrimages along the Pitman Downer Road to Muth’s farm. We paid two hundred-something dollars last spring to secure our right to use this veggie mecca. We fill our wooden basket with mizuna, bok choy, and of course, arugula—masses of arugula. At the end of the season, I trust you will all admire the faint green tinge to my skin. Perhaps by then I shall have completed my “Ode to Arugula.”

Arugula, arugula

It goes down past your jugulah

It pirouettes inside–a ya

That magic green



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