ST. HELENA, Calif. — A new variety of arugula brings out even more of the leafy green’s peppery side.

To get some firsthand feedback from the research and development chefs actually using their produce, Salinas, Calif.-based Church Bros. LLC launched a newly developed arugula variety it dubbed wasabi arugula at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone’s seventh annual Flavor, Quality and American Menus conference.

Church Bros. launches wasabi arugula

Courtesy Church Bros.

A new, flavor-packed variety of arugula from Church Bros., dubbed wasabi arugula, has applications beyond the traditional salad, says Ernst Van Eeghen, director of marketing and product development.

“I love the sharpness,” said Linton Hopkins, chef-owner at Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, one of the presenting chefs at the conference. “This gives me that horseradish flavor that reminds me of mountain Georgia arugulas.”

Hopkins’ group chose to use the wasabi arugula during the closing exercise at the conference, the Market Basket Experience. Presenting chefs, foodservice operators and sponsors worked in teams, each assigned to use certain sponsors’ products to create a lunch. Even though wasabi arugula wasn’t assigned to it, Hopkins’ group chose to use it in a salad with tomatoes, candied chili peanuts, shaved Parmesan and peanut vinaigrette.

Ernst Van Eeghen, director of marketing and product development for Church Bros., said the company is hoping the new flavor profile will help spur the already growing arugula category.

“Arugula is a category that has been successful for us and is growing, and we want to feed that growth and become a category captain in the arugula segment,” Van Eeghen said. “We see (growth) in our numbers and weexpect these new flavor combinations to feed that growth.”

Arugula is primarily used in salads, but it can also be a topping for pizzas, used in wraps, sandwiches and burgers, and incorporated into Asian cuisine, which is a high-growth segment, Van Eeghen said.

The company spent months dwindling more than 100 varieties of arugula down to select this particular variety, Van Eeghen said. It is also testing a red mustard arugula variety, and expects to debut that in November.

Wasabi arugula is available exclusively for foodservice in 1-pound and 2-pound bags. It is being planted in small lots which the company hopes to expand with increasing demand.

“At the Culinary Institute of America it was a tremendous success,” Van Eeghen said. “There was really some strong interest.”

The new arugula varieties should also be incorporated into spring mixes to create spicier spring mixes, Van Eeghen said.

Church Bros. is also running more than 100 trials on new varieties of not just arugula, but also romaine and green leaf, Van Eeghen said.

“We’re looking for flavorful accents or slightly different flavor profiles within each different leaf category,” Van Eeghen said. “We want to do more than just be a produce supplier.”

The event on Sept. 8-11 attracted chefs and product developers from 37 volume foodservice operators, representing hundreds of thousands of meals served across the U.S. each day. Almost 100 attended, including representatives from sponsor produce companies, presenting chefs and speakers on topics including sustainability, local procurement and the future of U.S. agriculture.