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Arugula is an herb that grows annually in the cooler months. Arugula leaves are popular additions to salad greens, stir-fries, and sandwiches for their spicy crunch. Needing minimal care, this fast-growing crop could become a fresh, home-grown addition to your dishes!
The leaves are nutty, mildly spicy, and even bitter in flavour, depending on the maturity of the leaves. Originally, arugula is from the Mediterranean region. In recent years, it has gained popularity in fine dining and comfort food recipes.
Nutritionally, arugula contains generous amounts of antioxidants, vitamins like K, C, and A, and minerals like Calcium and Iron. Moreover, the leaves also contain compounds like isothiocyanate, known for anti-cancer properties. Besides being used in the diet, oil pressed from arugula seeds is used for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
If you have never tried gardening but can’t keep your hands off the gardening products and tools at the stores? We recommend you start with this easy guide.
1. Growing Arugula
There is nothing to sweat about when it comes to growing arugula. Wait for the right weather conditions, fertilize the soil, and plant seeds.
With a bit of help from this arugula growing chart, you will enjoy lush arugula greens that are both pleasing to the eyes and the taste buds! This plant prefers cooler temperatures in the spring and fall months.
Interestingly, temperature differences make these zesty green taste different. Cooler weather produces milder-tasting leaves. Hot weather turns the leaves bitter and unpalatable, and the plants soon bolt.
1.1. The Arugula Plant
Arugula grows up to 2.5 feet or 70 cm. The leaf is rounded or profoundly lobed and grows three to six inches long. The plant belongs to the mustard family.
Arugula flowers are white or pale yellow with four petals. Seed pods come up along the flower stalk and stem. The seeds are edible and taste like radish.
1.1.1. Arugula Varieties
Speaking of the Arugula varieties, there are plenty to choose from. Each one comes with its unique taste, leaves, and growing preferences, and needless to say, with many names.
So, don’t get confused if you see names like roquette, rucola, or salad rocket at your local produce market. Confidently pick one bunch, or better still, grow your own with this guide on harvesting arugula.
If you want fast-growing varieties, grab the seed packets for ‘Runway’ and ‘Garden.’ However, note that these varieties have robust flavours, with ‘Italian Rocket’ having the sharpest taste.
On the other hand, if you want a milder-tasting arugula, ‘Astro II’ is a popular choice. It grows fast and is mild in crunch!
Do you live in warmer parts of the world and wonder about harvesting arugula in higher-than-ideal temperatures?
No sweating! You may choose the heat-tolerant and mild-tasting ‘Apollo‘ variety or the ‘Sylvetta’ with a more robust flavor. Mild-tasting ‘Red Dragon’ arugula with purple-veined leaves looks stunning in mixed salads.
1.2. Ideal Weather to Grow Arugula
In colder climates, you may sow the seeds in late summer. For spring sowing, wait for the soil to thaw.
Ideally, the temperature should be above 4 degrees C (40 degrees F). In warmer regions, cooler months are ideal for sowing.
Preferably, plant in spots under full sun. Arugula plants grow better when they get six or more hours of direct sunlight than partial sun. Nonetheless, arugula seeds germinate faster in cool weather.
1.3. Soil Conditions
Preferably, the pH of the soil needs to be neutral to mildly acidic (pH 6-7), well-drained and nutrient-rich. Loamy soil is best for these plants. However, almost any soil type is suitable for these plants.
The soil should be prepared at least a few months before sowing arugula seeds. For example, add the compost late in the previous fall for spring sowing. This gives the compost ample time to thoroughly break down and mix in the soil.
1.4. Sowing Seeds
Since arugula plants grow dense very quickly, sow the seeds about one inch apart in 1/4th inch deep soil. Keep the rows about 10 inches apart.
If you plan on consuming arugula frequently, then sow more densely. You may also loosely broadcast the seeds.
Even more fun is that you may continue sowing seeds every few weeks for a season-round supply. Make sure the soil is moist when you are sowing. This way, the seeds will germinate faster.
1.4.1. Opt for Sowing Diversity
As a precaution, avoid planting arugula with other closely related families, i.e., cruciferous vegetables like cabbage or Brussels sprouts. This would prevent competition for nutrients and keep common arugula pests like flea beetles at bay.
Instead, pair them with ‘companion’ plants in your vegetable garden. They nutritionally benefit each other and, thereby, yield robust arugula plants.
For example, root vegetables like onion, garlic, and herbs of the mint family, like rosemary, oregano, thyme, and basil, give off a pungent odour that prevents pest infestation.
Besides, you may also grow lettuce and other salad greens with your arugula plants. This is especially great if you harvest arugula for mixed salads like mesclun.
1.5. Alternate Ways to Grow Arugula
Generally, arugula plants are sturdy enough to grow in raised soil beds and planters. Nonetheless, good drainage is essential for lush growth. Use a well-draining potting mix. Make sure the planters have sufficient drainage holes.
Hydroponic farming enthusiasts will undoubtedly be interested to know that arugula is easy to grow hydroponically.
If you wish, you may use planters. This makes caring for the plant easier when the weather gets cooler or warmer. Follow these simple steps to prepare the soil with moisture and nutrients before sowing.
Are you wondering about harvesting arugula indoors and still providing the required sunlight?
2. Caring for Arugula Greens
Tending arugula greens does not need talented green fingers! A little bit of plant basics and some love goes a long way to a lush arugula harvest.
Since arugula plants have a shallow root system, they get moisture from the top layer of the soil. Therefore, it is essential to water the plants regularly; failing to do so will cause stunted growth and a distasteful harvest.
2.2. Preventing Common Pests
Arugula plants are pretty tough greens and have few pests. Know more about preventing and treating pest infestation in this pest management handbook.
The most common pests are flea beetles and aphids. Occasionally, brown spots of powdery mildew may appear on young leaves.
2.3. Fertilizing During Arugula Growth
Usually, you don’t have to worry about adding additional fertilizer after germination. That being said, ‘cut and come back’ crops like arugula do benefit from water-soluble NPK fertilizers once every couple of weeks.
2.4. Arugula Growing Tips
Luckily, with a few simple precautionary measures, you can enjoy a stress-free harvest!
- If you have planted outdoors, use row covers and mulch abundantly.
- Mulching will reduce weeds that compete for nutrition.
- If possible, grow companion and native plants around arugula to attract beneficial predators.
- Fortunately, gardening basics like removing plant debris and avoiding overhead watering go a long way in keeping the plants healthy.
3. The Art of Harvesting Arugula
Arugula plants provide harvest all along their life cycle. As a result, you may be able to harvest and enjoy arugula earlier in the growing season, depending on the variety.
Arugula seeds start germinating within days after sowing. The microgreens have rounded shape and taste peppery.
After that, baby arugula leaves appear, which you may start harvesting in about three weeks. The leaves reach maturity within 30-45 days of appearing.
3.1. Stages of Harvesting
Out of the many perks of growing arugula, the most exciting experience is harvesting. When it comes to harvesting arugula, there are several options.
You may consume almost all parts of the plant, including flowers. Besides, you may harvest the whole plant or pick arugula leaves at different stages of development.
Check out this short informative video :
3.1.1. Harvesting Arugula as a Whole Plant
There will be times when we need to harvest the entire plant. Maybe you need a big batch of greens for your recipe. Or, the cool weather has suddenly ended, causing the plants to bolt.
The shallow root system makes harvesting the whole arugula plants easy.
- Loosen the surrounding soil, grab the stem’s root end, and gently pull the entire plant.
- Alternatively, you may snip the stem about an inch from the soil.
3.1.2. Harvesting Arugula for Continual Growth
Arugula is known for providing a ‘cut and come again’ harvest, which lets you enjoy the greens throughout the growing season. Moreover, harvesting arugula by the ‘cut and come again’ delay bolting.
- You pick leaves within a few inches from the base.
- Leave the rest of the plant intact for new growth to appear.
This way, you would have plenty for future harvests.
Depending on your flavour preference, pick baby greens for a milder flavour. Or else, if you are craving some zesty green leaves in your dish, pluck the more mature arugula leaves.
220.127.116.11. Not all Leaves are Same
As the plants grow, the outer leaves mature, and more baby arugula leaves emerge. As the outer leaves grow, they become more intense in flavour. On the other hand, the center leaves are milder in taste.
For robustly flavoured greens, wait until the leaves are 5-6 inches long then they become too bitter for consumption. Younger and milder-tasting leaves are best harvested when they are 2-3 inches long.
18.104.22.168. The Nitty Gritty
For continual harvest, pick the individual leaves at the base of arugula plants. Depending on how strong you want the flavour of your dishes to be, select these outer leaves when they are either mature or young.
That way, by picking a few leaves at a time, the plants will continue to produce baby leaves at the center of the plant. This will ensure a more prolonged future harvest. To harvest your arugula, pinch individual leaves and gently pull.
3.2. Harvesting Arugula Flowers
Towards the end of the growing season, the arugula plant shoots out a flower stem, which buds into loose clusters of cream-coloured flowers.
The flowers look lovely as garnishes on sandwiches and pizzas and are edible. If consuming, pick the flowers as soon as they bloom.
Otherwise, if you are planning to propagate the plant, leave the flowers intact on the plant. Seeds will appear soon.
3.2.1. Propagating Arugula from Seeds
The most effective and economical way to propagate arugula for the next season is to save the arugula seeds. Towards the end of arugula seasons, leave some plants to bolt.
Once the flowers wilt, wait for seed pods to appear. Soon, they would mature and turn brown. Cut them off using a pair of shears. Wrap the seeds in a paper towel and keep them in an excellent spot until thoroughly dry.
Once dry, rub the pods on the palm to release the seeds. To store, transfer the seeds in a paper bag or a jar. They will be capable of germinating for up to six years.
4. How to Store Arugula?
Now that you are confident about harvesting arugula, you will be even more pleased to know about many ways to store them. Arugula leaves can be stored fresh or frozen, depending on how soon and in what ways you want to use them.
4.1. Storing Fresh Arugula
The harvest can be stored fresh if you plan to use them sooner and use them uncooked. Usually, the easiest way is to store it in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
- First, quickly run the greens under cold water and blot on a cloth or paper towel.
- Then, wrap loosely in a damp paper towel or towel and place inside a perforated plastic bag.
- Store away in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Typically, the greens will stay fresh for nearly five days.
You may pull out the whole arugula plant at the end of the growing season before the leaves turn too bitter. The best way to store whole plants with intact roots is in glass or unglazed ceramic containers.
Add about a few inches of water to the containers. This will keep them from wilting. Remember, you must change the water frequently, and the leafy greens will stay fresh for up to a week or more!
4.2. Freezing Arugula
Do you not have any immediate need for the harvested arugula, yet you are sure that you would crave them in the off-season? Then, freezing them is your solution. This way, greens can be used for up to a year in soups, smoothies, and sauces!
Thoroughly wash the leaves and briefly blanch for 30 seconds. After that, quickly transfer the leaves to a bowl of ice. This would stop from further cooking the leaves.
Once cool, store arugula in air-tight containers or freezer bags. Otherwise, you may also puree fresh arugula leaves, pour them into ice cube trays, and freeze them.
5. Enjoying Arugula Greens
There are many ways you can enjoy arugula. You may eat raw or cooked greens, just like these fabulous recipes. Arugula flowers are a great visual and gustatory complement to other salad greens.
Other than its widespread use in salad greens like this fabulous arugula salad with apple and pecan, arugula leaves can also be used as side dishes.
If you crave soup in the cold winter, the harvested arugula from the fall might be the answer! Alternatively, use some frozen puree to make pesto for linguine pasta. Alternatively, try peppery arugula leaves with garlic sautéed in olive oil as a side dish.
Isn’t It Simple to Harvest Argula?
Arugula is a pleasure to both grow and enjoy. Being easy to grow and standing out in taste, no wonder these greens are popular among beginners, seasoned gardeners, and foodies.
In case you already haven’t tried arugula, go ahead and give it a try. It is so versatile in dishes that you will keep returning them to your table.
So, why not grow fresh arugula right in your vegetable garden? Now that you know about arugula harvesting, it’s time to work some green finger magic!
Payel is an avid writer. She hails from the community and public health fields. Payel has an insatiable knack for traveling, meeting people, and knowing their cultures and customs. Her writing reflects her passion in the lifestyle genre.
Payel envisions to bring out the nuances and angles of our lives through things that matter to us.