Arugula is a spicy, leafy green that is used mostly as a salad green. It has a peppery flavor that can spice up any dish. It perks up even the most boring salad. It is a rather underused green. It’s great to add to pasta salads, soups and sandwiches. One of my favorite ways to use arugula other than salad, is to lightly sauté it and add it as a pizza topping. It loses some of its zip when cooked, but retains it’s fabulous flavor.
Arugula is a member of the mustard family which explains some of its spicy, nutty flavor. The dark green leaf itself is similar in shape to an oak leaf or oak leaf lettuce.
Arugula is an unusual green because as the plant ages the leaf actually changes shape. The young greens, like the packages sold at the grocery store have a little zip to them, but they are nothing compared to the leaves produced on the older plant. These leaves can make your eyes water when you snack on a leaf or two out in the garden. These older leaves retain their tenderness, while the zippy flavor increases. To get these older, zipper leaves, you will need to buy directly from a farmer that allows them to grow a little longer.
Arugula is native to the Mediterranean region where it grows wild. Arugula is packed with nutrition and has more beta carotene, vitamin C and calcium than lettuce, chicory, romaine and watercress. It also has more calcium than kale or Collard greens, which are two greens that are known for their high calcium content.
Have you ever had arugula on your sandwich instead of lettuce? It adds such a nice flavor experience. Give it a try!
When you’re traveling abroad don’t ask for arugula, they will look at you funny. It is known as Rocket in the UK. Rocket is a specific variety of arugula.
Arugula, whatever you call it, is a very easy plant to grow and can be seeded several times throughout the summer and well into the fall. It can take a very hearty frost so it can be planted into September here in NH. I’ve been known to be picking into early November. The earlier plantings can be allowed to go to flower.
The flowers are edible and have the same flavor with a milder zippiness. The flowers are a great addition to your regular salad or any dishes that you want to give just a tad bit of zip. If allowed to go to seed, arugula is prolific in producing seeds. Be sure to gather them before the pods open or they will readily self seed. By saving the seed, or allowing self seeding, you’ll have wonderful arugula plants from year to year. If you harvest the seed they’re easy to store. Make sure they are stored in a paper envelope until the next growing season. In plastic, they can mold if not dried properly so I find paper envelopes better to use. Arugula can be seeded as soon as the soil is ready to be worked in the spring and as late as September.
Arugula likes it sunny, so plant it where it can get at least four or more hours of sun. You will have arugula ready to pick about 30 days after planting. I have found the arugula doesn’t like the hot, hot summer sun. It can still be grown in the heat, just plant it where it can get more shade in the hot days of summer. Some people think if the plant goes to flower the leaves can become bitter. I have found that to not be the case. Drought or lack of water can cause the leaves to become bitter but I have never found that the flowering cycle causes it. The flavor and ‘zip’ does become stronger once flowering begins.
If your garden is limited to pots, no worries. Arugula grows great in pots. Give it plenty of sun and remember to water it so that it doesn’t bolt so fast.
I hope you enjoy your zippy greens known as Arugula here in the US and Rocket in the UK.
Wishing you garden peace & harmony in all you grow.🏡