Tips From My Garden: How to Grow and Use Arugula
I, possibly, am in denial because I won’t admit that I am a “foodie.” Though being witnessed by countless visitors and friends who call asking, “So, what are you doing right now?” I do have to admit that I watch a lot of food shows on television. I am immersed in the show as I pay close attention to the ingredients the television star chefs mix together to compile masterful meals during the fun and fact-filled half-hour shows. And, hear me on this, the show simply must not end until that magical moment when the chefs cut into the food and taste their marvelous creations right before my eyes.
Arugula in My Garden
I have an abundance of arugula growing in my back yard. This delicate arugula plant has big flavor, and it is a plant that is easy to grow and harvest. In this article, I share information about arugula and answer basic questions about how to grow, harvest, and store arugula. Near the end of this publication, I share my favorite (you’ve got to try this) arugula salad recipe.
Arugula Planting and Harvesting
Arugula is a cool season annual plant. Annual plants grow, drop seeds into the soil, and then die each year. When the time is right, the plant will grow again from the dropped seeds. In the case for arugula, you will begin to see arugula growing in your garden around early spring and fall when the ground becomes cooler.
- This plant grows best in full sunlight.
- Partial shade is alright, and you should have fertile, moist (but well-drained) soil. Space your plants about 12 to 18 inches apart.
- Arugula grows to about 6 to 12 inches tall. However, when arugula bolts (See the heading titled, "What Does Bolting Mean?") the plant can grow as tall as 2 to 3 feet.
- Arugula matures quickly. You can begin enjoying arugula in as little as 10 to 45 days after planting.
- If you want to have a longer production time for your arugula, instead of pulling up the entire plant, harvest your arugula by picking the outside leaves first. This method of harvesting is called "sustainable" harvesting because you are prolonging the life of the plant while continuing to enjoy its production.
What Does Bolting Mean?
A cool season plant, like arugula, begins to stop producing when the weather becomes warm. When this happens, the stems begin to produce flowers. During this process, the plants become spindly and tall. Gardeners call this bolting.
Vegetable flowers are quite beautiful and for that reason, I tend to let many of my vegetables bolt until they whither or until I need to use the soil to plant a warm season crop.
Did You Know?
Arugula flowers are edible.
Beautiful Flowers BoltingClick thumbnail to view full-size
I find that, once picked, arugula does not last very long. If you buy it at the grocery store, be prepared to use it right away. If you harvest it from your home garden, it may be kept for a maximum of three days, otherwise, it starts to become wilted and less flavorful.
Some chefs say never wash arugula until you are ready to use it. I kind of ignore that advice because if I have anything stored in the refrigerator, I like to be able to pull it out to use it immediately. Whether you wash or don’t wash your arugula before storing it, the best way to store arugula is to place the arugula onto a paper towel, roll up the arugula and paper towel, and then place this bundle into a plastic bag and store in the vegetable bin.
Store It in the RefrigeratorClick thumbnail to view full-size
Arugula Is the Star on the Plate
Many chefs use arugula as an herb, but it is also used as a vegetable in salads and as a cooked green. It has a mildly spicy flavor. I prefer the younger leaves because, while spicy, the younger leaves have a mild hint of buttery sweetness.
I have seen most chefs use arugula in mixed green salads. Some use it as a garnish. And, I am seeing a larger number of chefs using arugula in cooked dishes. My true interest in arugula started when I saw a chef use arugula as a pizza topping instead of basil. I tried it and liked it so much I began growing arugula in my back yard.
My Arugula Salad Recipe
My favorite way of enjoying arugula is in a simple salad.
I am absolutely fond of the flavor combination of arugula and onions. When arugula is in season, I enjoy a salad with arugula almost every day. Here is a recipe for my favorite and simple Arugula Salad. You’ve got to try this!
Salad Vegetable Mix
- 1/2 cup arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup iceberg lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 small onion, sliced very thin
- 1 radish, sliced very thin
- salt, to your taste preference
- pepper, to your taste preference
- 1 tablespoon Italian salad dressing
- Mix all ingredients into a medium-sized bowl.
- Drizzle salad dressing onto mixed ingredients and toss.
Please Rate This Recipe
This dish serves 2 people as a side salad or serves 1 as a dinner salad. (My favorite dressing is a tie between Kraft’s “Zesty Italian” and Wishbone’s "Robusto Italian"). I hope you enjoy this salad!
How Many Calories Are in Arugula?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), ½ cup of arugula has 0 Calories.
Why It Is the New Spinach
Arugula is also known as “rocket” and “rucola.” It belongs in the cruciferous vegetable family along with other vegetables such as broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, broccolini, daikon, kohlrabi, and watercress.
Spinach belongs to the leafy green family of vegetables, and while arugula and spinach belong to different vegetable families, many nutritionists refer to both arugula and spinach as “super foods” because both of these vegetables reportedly help lower blood pressure, control diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It is also said that both of these vegetables enhance athletic performance. Does anyone remember Popeye the Sailor Man? He is the cartoon character who, after eating a can of Spinach was able to effortlessly defeat his foe, Brutus. I imagine now, Popeye could have easily eaten arugula for the same results.
Some scientists say there is a chemical in arugula that may help slow the progression of several types of cancers. Mainly the reports mention, lung, colon, melanoma, esophageal, prostrate, and pancreatic cancers. Arugula is rich in vitamins A, K, and C. As with spinach, arugula is rich in folate, potassium, and calcium.
I have found that in preparing meals, whether eaten raw or cooked, I can substitute arugula in the same type of dishes where I would ordinarily use spinach.
The Value of Arugula
I hope you have discovered the value of arugula, a tasty and nutrient rich plant. Add this easy growing plant to your garden to enhance your dishes and enrich your health. Don't worry if you do not have a lot of space. Arugula grows easily in a container or small area of your garden.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Marlene Bertrand