America Is in the Midst of an Arugula Shortage

Cold, wet weather has left the peppery plant vulnerable to disease.

Maybe it's a good thing Veganuary is nearly at its end, otherwise here’s some news that may have you rethinking your reliance on greens: America is reportedly in the midst of an arugula shortage. Even more upsetting, these kinds of events could become more common thanks to—yep—climate change.

Unusually wet and cold weather in the American Southwest has left arugula crops more susceptible to downy mildew—a fungal disease that can be specifically deadly to arugula—creating the ongoing shortage, according to The Counter (formerly known as The New Food Economy). “We definitely haven’t been harvesting much the last couple of weeks,” Matt McGuire, chief agricultural officer of the Yuma, Arizona-based produce company JV Smith, told the site. “In the desert Southwest, we’re supposed to be dry. We usually don’t get rain much, even in the wintertime. But through a part of November and December, we were having storms dropping anywhere from a quarter to an inch of water every seven to 10 days.” (Personal anecdote, I was in Arizona for the holidays, and it rained more than I can remember from any previous visit.)

lots of fresh green arugula close up
Yuliya Shauerman/Getty Images

Florida has apparently been able to pick up a bit of the slack, but they too have been facing similar issues. “We shouldn’t be having any rain right now, it’s considered the dry season,” Eberhard Mueller, co-owner of Satur Farms, told The Counter. Overall, a wholesaler in the Detroit area told the site this has been the worst shortage he’s seen in three decades (though he also noted arugula is a lot more popular than it used to be).

Apparently, the further you are from the affected growing regions (primarily Arizona), the worse the shortage will be because downy mildew can continue to grow during cold shipment even after arugula has been packaged. And the ramifications are being felt coast-to-coast: WABC-TV confirmed the shortage in New York while KGO-TV said it’s affecting the Bay Area. It’s also accounted for one of the saddest arugula pizzas you may ever see on Twitter in Texas—though ironically enough, Austin360 reported that arugula growers in Texas were doing fine, so restaurants who were sourcing the peppery greens locally shouldn’t have to adjust their menus.

Importantly, however, The Counter also paints this current shortage as more than just an anomaly. “[Mueller] tells me that his operation has encountered more and more moisture throughout his time in the business—something he suspects is related to climate change,” wrote reporter Jessica Fu. “That falls in line with the deluge of weather-related ag difficulties that farmers have encountered in recent times.”

Well, climate change may take our arugula, but at least we’ll still have our favorite wines… Oh no, wait. We may lose those, too.

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