Growing Arugula is fun and has become a gardening favorite throughout the world. Known variously as rugula, roquette, and rocket, this delicious dark green, leafy vegetable can be used in many recipes. Originating in the Mediterranean Region, Arugula is an herbal salad green that is often used to balance the lighter flavor of lettuce in salads. Its fresh, nutty and peppery flavor adds a new dimension to sandwiches, pizza, soups, pestos, pasta, and stews.
Arugula prefers cooler weather so it should be planted in early spring or fall. To grow Arugula during the warmer days of summer, try to locate your crop in a partially shaded area of the garden. Row covers can also be used to reduce sunlight intensity and prevent wilting.
There are many varities of Arugula including Sylvetta, which is a hardy variety that has deeply cut leaves; Sputnik, which has a milder flavor; and Roquette, which has deeply cut arrow shaped leaves.
The Arugula plant needs plenty of rich, organic fertilizer to grow well and fully develop its unique flavor. Plant when the outside temperature reaches about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. You can plant your crop in rows 12″ wide and 18″ apart or in beds. Start by adding a two inch layer of compost or dried manure to the soil. Till the soil to a depth of 12″ and mix in the compost or dried manure thoroughly.
Plant seeds to a depth of 1/2″ and about one inch apart.. Cover seeds with 1/4″ of soil. Tamp the soil lightly. Seeds should sprout in three to ten days. Plant seeds at three week intervals for a continuous harvest. When plants are three inches tall, thin to allow three inches of space between each plant for better growth. Arugula can also be grown inside in pots on a sunny window sill.
The tender leaves of the Arugula can be harvested when they are about five inches tall. The tasty, tender shoots are milder at this stage of development. Larger leaves with a width of four to six inches can be harvested 30-45 days after planting. Water Arugula regularly. The soil should be moist but not soggy. Water in the morning before the sun gets too high in the sky. Early morning watering provides for better absorption and keeps the plants from going to seed too soon. The flowers of Arugula are also edible. The creamy white flowers with four petals having purple veins and golden stamens are great for salads.
Harvest the larger outer leaves first, leaving the center so that more leaves will develop. Simply pinch off the leaves at the base of the plant using the thumb and forefinger. The leaves get tougher and more bitter tasting as they get larger and older.
Arugula is low in calories and high in dietary fiber. It contains Vitamins A, C, B6, and K. It is also a very good source of, phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium and manganese.
Arugula can be braised much as you would spinach. Cook lightly with a dash of oil and eat. Remember that the flavor of cooked Arugula is fairly strong. It is also a gread ingredient for use in stir-fry.
Add the flavorful herb Arugula to your list of gardening crops for spring and fall planting. This delicious plant is easy to grow and you will find many uses for Arugula in the kitchen.