From our Obsession
Future of Food
How to feed everyone, without hurting the planet.
It’s a one-two punch that’s taken the wind out of the US arugula industry. First came the unusual storms, then came the fungal infections. And grocery shoppers are starting to take note: Local news stations in New York and in San Francisco noted consumers aren’t able to find the peppery green, both in the cities and throughout the country.
A lot of the arugula grown in the US comes from either Florida or southwestern states such as Arizona—places that have gotten an unusual amount of rain during what would otherwise be a dry season. At least one company, Yuma, Arizona-based JV Smith, told The Counter that storms sweeping through its region are “dropping anywhere from a quarter to an inch of water every seven to 10 days.”
That creates conditions that make it easier for a fungal disease called “downy mildew” to flourish. Tiny microbes coalesce on the plants, creating large, blocky yellowed areas on leaves that quickly turn brown and rot.
The shortage isn’t bad news for everyone, though. In parts of Texas, the industry went virtually untouched by storms. That could lead to an uptick in business for growers in regions there, even if they don’t have the capacity to fill in for the farms that were affected.
But for those who love arugula and miss it in their salads and on their pizzas, it’ll be a waiting game until suppliers get up and running. The plant is a fast-growing one, taking about two weeks to emerge from the soil into a small leafy green. It takes another week or so for the plant to fully mature before it’s harvested. Arugula’s peak seasons are in the early spring and early fall.