It’s Not Just You: There Really Is a National Arugula Shortage Happening Right Now

updated Jan 29, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Salad greens have had a rough spell recently. Every few months over the last couple growing seasons, there has been a romaine lettuce recall, which always results in a widespread salad panic. And now according to ABC News, there are reports from both Florida and around the Southwest that there is currently an arugula shortage due to growing conditions.

Though often used as a salad green, arugula is a slightly spicy, peppery herb. It grows in late winter and early spring, making it one of those wonderful harbingers of the changing seasons — a peace offering from the chill of winter, promising warmer days, singing birds, and blooming flowers — not to mention all the fruits and vegetables. 

But the cold, wet winter this year surprised growers in the Southwest, and the conditions helped create the perfect landscape for the spreading of a fungus called downy mildew. This mildew ruins the crop and makes the arugula that seems okay at packing actually spoil faster. So even when kept under normal refrigeration, it could go slimy in the bag before it reaches the customer. Meanwhile, the pressure on Florida to make up the difference in production has meant that suppliers are putting limits on how much arugula they sell to distributors. 

Grocery stores and restaurants are already running short on the green, and people have started to take notice. The signature peppery flavor of arugula is hard to replace and serves as the base for many people’s daily salads, but this shortage might just be the perfect time to check out a few new-to-you greens that have survived the Southwest’s cold snap or are grown elsewhere. The downy mildew turns out to only damage arugula, and so plenty of other greens have survived. Or, if you’re looking for a long-term plan to keep yourself in arugula, you might try growing it yourself inside — it’s surprisingly easy to do.