My sister has a much more adventurous palate than I do. So when we were young and she ordered a pizza with arugula on it, I didn’t think much of it. It looked like spiky spinach, and I assumed it had a similar mild flavor. Boy was I wrong! In my opinion back then, the greens ruined the pizza and I decided I hated the stuff. But time changes all things….
What Are Arugula Plants
I love having greens in the garden. Especially since we only grocery shop once per month. Growing my own leafy plants lets me enjoy a salad whenever I want. During the growing season, I often sauté spinach and Swiss chard to freeze and use during the winter. One of my recently planted greens is my old nemesis. Arugula. This once nasty green has turned into one of my favorites as my palate aged.
During my time as a chef, I learned about a lot of foods that I didn’t grow up with and hadn’t encountered. One of the trendy ones at the time was arugula. People were using it in everything. Adding it to a salad for its peppery zing was just one of the common arugula uses. It was paired with meats, eggs, breads, and many other dishes. As the green on a sandwich, the flavor goes up next level. It pairs well with other zingy things, such as citrus and stone fruits. In a salad or other preparation, it is mellowed a bit with the addition of some of those stinky cheeses, like Cambozola or Romano. In the U.K. you are more likely to find this green labeled Rocket.
One of my favorite arugula uses that will carry into winter, is as a pesto. You can use it just as you would basil and it has a rich, peppery, fullness that elevates pasta, sandwiches, fish, and more. In order to keep my stock of the plant going, I am growing arugula successively. You can nip off leaves for quite some time, but eventually, the flavor starts to get a bit bitter. So I seed arugula plants several times during the season to keep young leaves on our table.
Tips for Growing Arugula
Growing arugula is easy. Wait until all danger of frost has passed and direct sow the seeds. I plant the early Arugula in full sun, but the later seeds are in partial shade. It only takes about a week to start seeing seedlings and you can harvest in around 6 weeks. Every few weeks, sow some more seeds for a constant supply of the greens. You can cut leaves as you need them, or yank up the whole plant. You can even eat the flowers if the plant decides to bolt. I am also considering growing arugula indoors in a container to see if that will work.
Along with broccoli, kale, cabbage, and others, arugula is a cruciferous vegetable. Whatever arugula uses in food, the plant also offers cancer protection, heart health, and high levels of calcium. It’s good for you and adds that little bit of peppery spice that raises food to a new height.