Tuesday, September 11, 2012


In all my years of garden writing, I am very surprised to discover that I have never written about arugula, which is one of my favorite greens.  This very tasty cool season vegetable has a unique spicy flavor all its own, which can vary greatly from strain to strain.  My hand selected arugula is my favorite, of course.  That is one of the pleasures of saving seeds—you only save the ones that perform to your personal standards!

My arugula has a flavor that is reminiscent of a combination of mild mustard and radish greens, with a tad of cilantro, sesame seed, and black pepper thrown in.  Arugula is a member of the mustard family.  It has a bold robust flavor that makes a lovely accompaniment to sandwiches, salads, and any dish to which you would add cooked greens.  While I am singing the praises of my own hand selected strain, you might want to know that arugula is actually an ancient plant.  It has been grown in the Mediterranean region since Roman times, when it was considered an aphrodisiac!

I don’t know about that, but all parts are edible!  Arugula finds its way to the plate as sprouts, micro greens, baby leaves, full sized leaves, tender young bolts, flower buds, flowers, and immature seed pods.  The fully mature seeds taste very similar to the leaves, just more so.  They can be ground or used whole, just as you would pepper or mustard, for a taste sensation all their own.

Arugula is as easy to grow as common radishes!  It is not very particular about the temperature of the soil at planting time, and you can start them in containers or directly in the garden--if it’s safe from seed eating birds and seedling eating pests.  If starting seeds directly in your garden is not possible, don’t feel alone. I am in the same boat!  To see my latest experiment on producing healthy seedlings see:  Starting Seed, If At First You Don’t Succeed.’ 

Arugula seedlings can be started now for fall and winter production, and they can help you fill out your year around gardening plan. They not only can take a frost, they will survive occasional snow fall and ground freezing.  If your yard grows weeds in winter, you can grow arugula!  the farther north you go the more important full sun becomes, but here in Central California they do just fine with half a day of sun or even bright filtered shade.  If your soil stays frozen or covered in snow for most of the winter, you can still squeeze in a fall and early spring crop, and you might try over wintering a pot on a sunny enclosed porch or balcony.

The seeds should be planted about ¼ inch deep, kept in bright sunlight and as evenly moist as possible until the plants are well established.  The seeds will generally start germinating in 6 – 12 days.   If you work away from home, keeping the seedlings evenly moist while providing bright light can be challenging.  Check at your local nursery or in your favorite catalog for self watering systems that use wicks or moisture mats.  You can also skip germinating your own and look for six packs of arugula starts are your local farmers’ market!   However, there is nothing quite so satisfying as starting your own seed.

Here is what they look like when they first come up:

If, instead of looking like the babies in the photo above, they look like these in the photo below, you know they are not getting enough light:

Once your seedlings are about 6 weeks old, you can start pinching leaves for sandwiches and salads:

 By the end of winter, through spring, and possibly into the early summer--your plants will produce attractive tasty flowers that make a wonderful addition to green salads.  The flowers have the added benefit of attracting beneficial insects and providing food for our all important pollinators:

Arugula seeds are available from most well stocked seed counters and seed catalogs that carry specialty vegetables.  If you would like to try a few seeds saved from my plants, I can offer them through Listia auctions.  Listia is an on-line bartering platform.  It's free, it works on points (called credits) and you can earn these credits a number of ways (by listing your own auctions or by taking surveys--for instance).  But if eBay works better for you, just let me know.  If you have any question, please feel free to leave them in comments section below.

Here is a link to join Listia that fixes you up with some free credits:  https://www.listia.com/signup/.   Once you are a member you can check out my auctions here: http://www.listia.com/profile/1729366.  If I do not currently have an auction for arugula seeds listed, please feel free to contact me about your interest and I would be happy to put an auction up for you if I still have seeds available. (And again, I can put one up on eBay if that works better for you.)

For more on starting seeds see:

For more cool season crops see:

Thanks for stopping by my blog!  Please remember that all text and photos are my copyrighted intellectual property.  Please feel free to share with the buttons below or to post links, but please do not repost or publish without contacting me first.  The best way to contact me is to leave a comment below, my e-mail accounts are so bogged down that I never manage to open all my mail.

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