A Beginner's Guide to Growing and Cultivating the Leafy Arugula

Guide to Growing Arugula
Arugula is a green, leafy vegetable, native to the Mediterranean region. It has an exceptionally strong, piquant flavor and is chiefly used as a salad green in North America. Here are some tips on growing arugula
Arugula (binomial name Eruca sativa or Eruca vesicaria) is a highly nutritious vegetable and relished in countries like Italy, Portugal, Lebanon, and Turkey in pastas, pizzas, and soups. It is also known by a variety of other names like rocket, roquette, garden rocket, or rocket salad.
How to Grow Arugula
Seeding and Watering the Plant
Arugula is one of the easiest plants to grow in your garden. The best season would be early spring, when it's not too hot, since the plant flourishes in cool weather. If it gets too sunny, you can take the pot indoors or use a shade. Garden rocket needs 4-5 hours of sunshine daily and well-drained soil that retains moisture well. A neutral soil of pH value 6.0 to 7.0 is advisable. Take a garden pot filled with potting mix. You can add compost to the soil or use organic potting soil. Scatter a handful of tiny, black seeds evenly over the soil, an inch apart from each other. Press them gently into the soil so that they are embedded about a quarter of an inch inside. Water them gently using a watering can. Do not force water over the soil, this may harm the seeds. Water the seedlings daily. Do not let the soil become waterlogged. A thin layer of mulch will keep the soil moist and prevent weeds. It will be at least a week before you notice the seedlings sprout from the soil. When they are a couple of inches tall, pluck the leaves off. These tender leaves are delicious and can be used to make salads.
Arugula seeding
Harvesting Arugula
These plants grow fully in a period of four weeks. The sooner you pluck the leaves, the sweeter they will taste. If you leave them on the plant and pluck them at a later date, they will taste bitter. So depending upon your taste, decide when you want to cut them off. Always cut the leaves towards the base, and pick the outer leaves. Once your plant is fully grown, you can either pull it out entirely, or you can cut off the leaves as and when you desire. It is a fast-growing plant, the more leaves you cut, the faster it grows! As the summer gets hotter, the plant will produce a flower stalk from the middle that grows straight up. You will see small, white flowers beginning to bloom. This is a signal that the leaves will have a more pungent taste and that no more leaves will be produced.

Once the plant is in full bloom, you will notice seed pods forming on its stems. If you want to plant garden rocket again, next year, cut off the stems and cover the pods with a paper bag and when they dry, they will open up and you can collect the seeds. Store the seeds in a zip-lock bag or a jar and keep them in a cool and dry place and use them next spring.
Arugula in bowl
Care from Diseases and Pests
It is a fairly hardy little plant, not attacked much by pests and insects, though sometimes it can be affected with bacterial leaf spot. To control it, purchase seeds that are certified disease-free. In case you need to use pesticides, check and read labels carefully before application. If you have grown these plants in the garden, consider covering them with floating row covers to keep insects away.
Recipe for Arugula Salad
It is best eaten in its raw form, although in some cuisines it is cooked like spinach. Rich in antioxidants like carotenoids, vitamins, minerals, and low in oxalates, arugula is one of the healthiest leafy greens you can add to your diet. Arugula flowers are also edible and are used as garnishes in salads. Try this incredibly simple salad recipe with your home-grown arugula leaves.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups arugula leaves
  • 15 cups of romaine lettuce, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup garlic croutons
  • Salt and pepper, as per taste
Arugula salad
Preparation
In a large salad bowl, put all the ingredients and mix them well. Your salad is ready.
We have seen how nutritious this leafy vegetable is and how simple it is to include it in your diet. So grow arugula in your garden this summer, reap its benefits, and delight in its spicy flavor that will no doubt add that extra kick to your salad.