It's not just you, your favorite peppery salad green really has been vanishing from store shelves and restaurants. Due to an unusually cold and soggy winter in the Southwest (where most of our leafy produce comes from), arugula is having an unlucky growing season. According to New Food Economy, the brutal weather conditions are causing the greens to develop downy mildew—a fungal disease that causes yellow lesions and can eventually kill the entire plant.
Arugula (and pretty much all winter leafy greens) is primarily grown in desert regions of the Southwest and Florida, where it's not usually too cold or rainy in the winter. Robert Schueller, director of public relations at Melissa's Produce, shared that the main suppliers of arugula this time of year are in Yuma, Arizona. Scheuller says cold weather conditions have resulted in limited quality products, so we're seeing it in short supply that can't keep up with the demand. If you happen spot arugula at your local grocery store over the next few weeks, expect to see it priced a little higher than normal.
Living further away from the growing regions means even smaller chances of seeing arugula in stores or restaurants since infected arugula will spoil en route to its destination even if the transit temperature is cold enough to store the greens. So if you've seen unhappy New Yorkers posting about the arugula shortage, that's why. Schueller says the recovery time for new crops will take two to three weeks and things should start returning back to normal, so don't lose hope yet.
If you can't imagine tossing a salad or adding green to your pizza without these leafy greens, we're with you. Until the weather looks up and the season can bring more arugula to store shelves, consider starting an indoor veggie garden to grow your own to guarantee your salads are plentiful year-round.