Arugula- Eruca sativa
Also known as rocket, ruchetta, rugula, roquette, rucoli
Arugula is a fast-growing leafy green. It is supposed to have a tangy, mustard-like taste. I tasted a couple of seeds and I picked up on a slightly peppery flavor. It has high levels of polyphenols and beneficial nitrates. It grows up to 3 feet tall with yellow flowers.
Some possible benefits:
Lower blood pressure
Has some possible anticancer benefits due to the glucosinolates.
High in calcium and vitamin K so it is good for bone health.
Good source of fiber. Helps regulate glucose and may reduce insulin resistance.
Good for heart health due to polyphenols and organosulfur compounds.
Good source of potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and vitamin A.
Some possible risks:
You might want to speak with your health care professional before adding a lot of Arugula if you are on blood thinners. Vitamin K helps in blood clotting.
Eating large doses of nitrate-rich foods may interfere with some medications like nitrate drugs.
The best time to plant Arugula is in the early spring or early fall. It prefers nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. It is great for your garden. You can even plant in containers and raised beds.
Soil preference is the ph of about 6 or 7.
For best results, plant in full sun.
Avoid planting where other Brassicaceae have recently been planted, as disease and pests may still be present.
Sow 1/4th inch deep and 1 inch apart with rows 10 inches apart. You may want to put a couple of seeds in to start and thin as needed. Sometimes seeds will not germinate.
You can plant every 2 weeks to have a continued source of Arugula.
Thin seedlings to about 6 inches apart. You can use the thinned seedlings in your next salad.
An up-close picture shows the seeds looking like tiny multicolored rocks. I thought that was interesting!
Arugula seeds image by Carrie Windsor
The leaves are best harvested when they are about 2-3 inches tall. The older they are, the tougher they are, and pack more of a bite. You can either dig up the entire plant or just take the leaves. The flowers are edible as well.
Some pests you may want to watch for
Flea beetles- will leave many tiny little holes in the leaves. Try planting some native plants to attract beneficial insects.
Flea beetle- image by UMN
Cabbage worms- will leave large, ragged holes. They lay their eggs underneath the leaves. Plant thyme nearby to attract beneficial insects.
Cabbage worm- image by Almanac
Downey mildew- yellow spots and black speckles on top of the leaves. Assure good circulation and avoid overhead watering.
Downey mildew- image by Cornell
White rust- white chalky blisters under the leaves. If you get this, you want to destroy the plant.
White rust- image by The Daily Garden
Ways to preserve Arugula:
Can be stored in the crisper drawer in the fridge. Just wash and place between paper towels. Put in a glad-type bag and place in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Freeze in olive oil to lock in the flavor. Simply put Arugula in a dish. Cover with olive oil and freeze. Once frozen, break into smaller chunks, put in a bag, and put back in the freezer. Can be used as a salad dressing once thawed.
Dried. Wash the Arugula leaves and dry them as much as possible. Place the leaves on a baking sheet. Put in the oven for 30 minutes on 170-200. When removed from the oven the stems should not be bendable at all. Crush and pulverize. Place them in a jar until you are ready to use them. It takes a few batches to get just one ounce of powdered Arugula.