Arugula, a Quick-Growing Garden Green With a Spicy Kick

arugulaVirtues: We love arugula for its vibrant green leaves that are jam-packed with zesty flavor; whether eaten raw, used as a culinary herb, cooked like spinach or added to salads and other delectable dishes, arugula adds a kick of peppery taste. If the plant bolts, tiny, white edible flowers will bloom—also full of robust flavor and useful as a garnish in salads. 

Common name: Arugula; rocket; roquette

Botanical name: Eruca sativa; Eruca vesicaria

Flowers: Although grown for its tasty foliage, in warmer climates, arugula may bolt—bursting into a bloom of tiny, white flowers full of spicy flavor. (The intense taste of the flowers can be too strong, so many gardeners try to stop the plant from bolting or consider the season over when it does. The plant typically bolts when temperatures turn hot and the sun is strong.)

Foliage: Long, slender green lobed leaves grow on pale, creamy green stems. The lush foliage has a strong, spicy scent and equally pungent taste.

Habit: These tasty greens can reach a height of 1 to 3 feet and 1 foot wide. The leaves are often harvested when roughly 4 to 12 inches tall.

Season: Arugula is typically harvested in spring or fall—when the weather is cool. In warmer climates it may be grown in winter and in cold climates it can be grown in summer.

Origin: Native to the Mediterranean region.

How to grow Arugula: These cold-loving greens thrive in fertile, well-drained soil with frequent and regular watering. Arugula can be planted in early spring when the soil starts to loosen—usually when soil temperatures are 40 to 55˚F—and again in late summer, when the weather begins to cool. Make sure to space seeds 12 to 18 inches apart, so the plant has sufficient room to grow. You can encourage growth by applying a time-released fertilizer. Arugula should be planted in full sun to part shade—in warmer climates make sure there is enough shade to prevent bolting. These zesty greens should be ready to harvest in 30 to 40 days—when leaves are roughly 4 to 12 inches tall. Collect outer leaves first, leaving the inner part of the plant to continue to grow for later harvests.

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