Arugula Tastes Sharp Bitter: What To Do?

If arugula tastes bitter or somewhat spicy, it is no longer edible for many people. You can prepare the arugula accordingly to reduce the amount of bitter substances.

  • Arugula tastes spicy to bitter due to the mustard oils it contains
  • Mustard oils are not harmful to health
  • storage, harvest time and leaf length are decisive for the aroma
  • do not wait too long before eating or further processing
  • Water can effectively remove the bitter substances

Pungent bitter arugula: causes.

Garden mustard arugula (Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa) is one of the most popular plant species for salads, but it can taste too spicy or bitter due to several reasons. The most common cause of the pungent bitter taste is too long and dark storage. Ideally, you should eat or process arugula quickly after harvest. This also applies to the time of harvest. Mustard rabe should always be harvested just before flowering, as the intensity of the bitter substances increases greatly after flowering. The best time to harvest as follows:

  • 3 to 6 weeks after sowing
  • at the latest by September
  • not after flowering

Tip: If you are not sure when to harvest the rocket leaves, you can also pay attention to the length. A maximum length of ten centimeters is particularly recommended, because larger ones contain more mustard oils.


Extract bitter substances

If you want to enjoy arugula with a more delicate flavor, wash the leaves with warm water before preparing. To improve its effectiveness, you can also soak the mustard greens in ice water for about 30 minutes. If that’s too long for you, use sweeteners for your dressings or arugula creations, such as pesto. The sugar it contains will immediately counteract the pungency and bitterness. Well suited for this are:

  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Agave syrup
  • Sugar
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Note: Likewise, the amount of bitter substances in rocket may increase if you sow seeds from the same mother plant every year. The offspring usually contain higher amounts of mustard oils, which affects the intensity of the flavor.

Frequently asked questions

Are the mustard oils unhealthy?

Quite the contrary. Mustard oils are very healthy for the body and are even said to prevent the formation of cancer. The bitter compounds contained in mustard oil decompose when consumed to form isothiocyanates, which in turn are said to have cancer-preventive effects. In combination with the antioxidants it also contains, mustard greens prevent oxidative stress.

Does arugula contain potentially harmful substances?

Yes, the leafy vegetable contains nitrate. Nitrate itself is harmless to humans and can be consumed even in large quantities. However, there is a problem when the nitrate turns into nitrite, as this substance is said to be carcinogenic. Nitrite is formed in rocket when the leaves begin to dry or are stored in the dark. Use the leafy greens as fresh as possible and remove the stems, as they contain more nitrate.

When is it best to buy arugula?

If you want to play it safe with the bitter compounds, it is preferable to purchase arugula or its leafy greens in the summer. The more sun the plant has received, the fresher and spicier the leaves will taste without the bitter or pungent notes predominating.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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