I love arugula. I know I probably sound like a broken record player. In my short history as narrator of this blog I have spoken of arugula here, here and here. But when you find a green like arugula, you must sing its praises from the rooftops. It is easy to grow, has a delicious peppery bite and even provides antioxidants that will boost the immune system.
Its English name is Rocket, the French call it Roquette and the Italians call it Rucola. Each translation relates to the manner in which the plant will suddenly shoot up when the weather gets hot. But I have to admit a certain personal conflict when this occurs. As with other greens, this response to the hot weather turns the leaves bitter and harsh tasting. But on the other hand, the flowers that burst forth are dainty and cream-colored, with specks of yellow and purple. I find them just beautiful, in the garden, in a salad or used as a garnish. The edible blooms are mild reminder of their parent plant. A plant that is equally comfortable shredded and served in a salad with spring vegetables or roasted with a medley of fall vegetables.
And have I said how easy they are to grow. Given my chaotic, haphazard approach towards gardening, arugula has been one of those tremendous successes. The tender plants will do well in a container, tucked into a sunny corner or planted in a formal vegetable garden. Spring planting is right around the corner and if you plant nothing else, I would recommend trying some arugula.
This is what my books say about: Arugula
Family: Brassicacea / Cruciferae
Height: Garden arugula will stand about 8” tall. Wild arugula is taller and will stand 12-18” tall.
Spacing: About 3” apart – If applying the square foot gardening technique, that equals about 16 plants per square.
Sun: Arugula likes a sunny spot in the cooler months of early spring and fall and shady spots in the warmer months.
Water: Keep the soil around your arugula moist… especially after planting and during the young seedling stage.
Soil: Arugula is not picky in its soil requirements, any well-worked garden soil will do.
Companions: Because of its easy nature, arugula is another easy vegetable to plant in between larger vegetables, tucked into a partially shady corner, or as a border.
Season: Arugula does best during the cooler months of spring, fall and even into winter. In Oregon, my arugula has done well all through the winter… it won’t grow very fast, but I have been able to snip leaves to add to fresh salads all season. Garden arugula will bolt and become bitter during the warm summer months.
Planting: Plant seeds ½” deep and 1 or 2” apart or scatter them across your planting area. When the seedlings emerge (1 -2 weeks after planting), thin to about 3” apart enjoying the ‘cast-offs’ in your salad. To ensure a steady diet of delicious arugula, plant a succession of arugula seeds every two weeks.
Harvest: Start harvesting arugula leaves when the plant is about 4” tall, 3 – 4 weeks after planting, by cutting off the youngest leaves at the center of the plant; new leaves will start to grow again. What I tend to do though, is to cut the entire plant back, leaving about 1” above the soil; new leaves will soon emerge.
Of Note: There are two types of arugula… rustic or wild arugula (which is a bigger plant, with longer, narrow leaves and is slower to bolt during the hotter summer months) and the more familiar garden arugula.
Another random fact: You are as likely to find arugula seeds in the herb section as the vegetable section (even in the grocery store I might find this salad green in either location). So, if you don’t find it at first, do not despair.