Notes On Growing Arugula
Growing arugula is a fairly straightforward task. Arugula is a green leafy vegetable having somewhat of a peppery taste, some would say it has a "kick". It's often used in salads, either in place of lettuce, or more often than not, in addition to lettuce. For that matter, growing arugula is not much different than growing lettuce. Perhaps the main difference is that arugula leaves tend to get somewhat gritty, and often require a greater amount of rinsing than is the case with lettuce.
Growing Arugula - The small seeds can either be planted in a row or scattered across a small bed. If planted in a bed, dividing the bed into quarters might be considered if you want to plant successive crops that will give you a supply of fresh arugula well into summer, and perhaps beyond. However you distribute the seeds, cover them with 1/4" of fine soil and keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate, which usually will happen in a few days or about a week.
Once the arugula plants have reached a height of about an inch you can thin them out, spacing the seedlings 3' to 4' apart. Some gardeners don't bother to thin arugula, simply harvesting the young plants, and over time, thinning out the plants enough so that some seedlings will grow to their full size. If it is the very young leaves you want, growing arugula in pots or planters may work best for you. Arugula can then be harvested without having to work around other plants in the vegetable garden.
Growing arugula typically is an early spring chore as it is a cool season crop. While like most vegetables, arugula needs plenty of sun, if you are going to sow successive crops, you may find it necessary to provide temporary shade for the vegetable during the hotter summer days. While you can harvest leaves from young plants, some gardeners will wait until thinned-out plants have matured, normally 30 to 40 days after sowing. Outer leaves are then harvested. The inner leaves will continue to grow and provide the next round of harvested arugula. Harvested leaves can be stored in the refrigerator if they are not to be eaten immediately, but will only keep about 2 days before beginning to spoil. If possible it is always best to harvest arugula the day you are planning to serve it.
Note: Some Are Allergic - If you're new to growing arugula, or have not eaten it before, you might want to be aware that some people have suffered allergic reactions to the vegetable, in some instances rather severe. These reactions can take the form of a swollen tongue, cotton mouth, and at times inflammation of the mouth or throat. If you haven't tried this vegetable before, it might be worthwhile to try just a little at first. Most people do not have this allergic reaction, but there is always the chance that you or a member of the family might not be exactly like "most" people. Arugula has many benefits however, being rich in vitamins and a number of important minerals.
There Are Many Recipes Featuring Arugula - In a salad, arugula offers a hint of radish or watercress flavor, to which it is related. It is also excellent with pasta and capellini, and as a base for serving sautéed shrimp. Arugula will add a little zing to a grilled cheese sandwich. In salads, good companion ingredients are baby spinach, pecans, chicken, and wild rice. Though arugula may not be too well known in North American kitchens, it has been a favorite in the Mediterranean countries for centuries, both eaten raw and in cooked dishes.