For years I have grown arugula in my garden, not for our consumption, but for the ease of growing it for market, the beauty in the garden and the beneficials insects it attracts when in bloom. Not until recently I have learned to love the flavor and it’s adversity in the kitchen. Arugula has a somewhat peppery taste with a “kick”. I prefer to pick it when it is very young and tender. The small leaves have much less of a bite then when they become more mature. Once starts going to seed, I use the flowers to add a great peppery flavor to green salads or topped onto baked potatoes.
Growing arugula is a breeze. It likes cooler weather, so spring and fall crops are great for growing this straight forward green. 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 for cooler climates. 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. You will be surprised how fast they show themselves peeking out of the ground! Once the arugula plants have reached a height of about an inch you can thin them out, spacing the seedlings 3′ to 4′ apart if you like. Some gardeners, including myself 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 will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. It does not keep long. So pick only what you need. I keep mine cut back to continue the new growth of new leaves. Anything I don’t use right away I give to the chickens which love the treat of fresh greens from the garden.
Growing Arugula for microgreens is another alternative which can be done indoors near a window all year-long. Arugula is probably one of the easiest microgreens I have grown. I use a small planting try (12×12), and fill it 3/4 full with a really good organic potting soil, Happy Frog is my favorite, moisten the soil, sprinkle arugula seeds over the soil rather thick, then place a couple of moist paper towels right over the seeds. Keep the paper towels moist, but not wet or mold will form. You can use a spray bottle for this. Once the seeds have germinated remove the paper towels. Once your greens have grown to about one inch, it’s time to harvest. A true microgreen is harvested when only the first two (cotyledon) leaves appear. These little microgreens have such a great strong flavor and add an amazing zest when sprinkled on top of soups, salads or added to sandwiches. Once you have cut back your arugula microgreens, they will not grow back. You have cut their life line! Dump the used soil into the compost and start fresh every time. By the way…….You can grow any microgreen this way.
Super Arugula Recipe: Green Couscous
Place 1 cup couscous in a large bowl and cover with 3/4 cup boiling water or vegetable stock, cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry 1 small onion or 1 large shallot in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until golden and completely soft. Add 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of ground cumin. Mix with couscous. Make a herb paste by adding the following ingredients into a food processor. 1/3 cup chopped parsley, 1 cup chopped cilantro, 2 tbsp chopped dill, 2 tbsp chopped mint and 6 tbsp olive oil. Process until smooth. Mix into the couscous. Now add 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios that have been toasted and chopped roughly, 3 green onions finely sliced, 1 jalapeno pepper finely diced, and 1 1/4 cup of arugula fresh from the garden that has been chopped into about 1 inch pieces. Mix together. You can add a little olive oil if the salad seems to dry. You can add some feta cheese if you like. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy