Background

Taking center stage this week in our quest to bring you a constellation of quick crops is the vivacious plant internationally known as garden rocket, but on this side of the Atlantic, arugula. A spicy, peppery, nutrition packed leafy green, arugula adds the perfect kick to any dish in want of something more than just lettuce. Most varieties will be ready to harvest within 5 weeks of planting, falling well within our quick-crop guidelines of 49 days or less.

Arugula is a leaf vegetable, originally cultivated in the Mediterranean region. Since the age of the Roman Empire, arugula has been especially popular in Italy. The island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples distills rucolino, a digestive alcohol produced from the arugula plant. An aspect of this enduring popularity may be in part because classical authors often cited the herb as an aphrodisiac.

Taxonomically, arugula is known as Eruca vesicaria and in aggregate is the only member of the Eruca genus. Moving up the ladder of scientific classification, arugula is part of the Brassicaecae family. This means arugula is a closer relative to broccoli and radish than spinach or lettuce. Surprising to say the least! Before writing this, I was under the impression that it was just a variety of lettuce or something like a cousin of kale. Goes to show the vast difference in public knowledge about this crop here in the USA vs. European consumers.

Plant Itself

Arugula is a leafy green plant, harvested when leaves are immature and flowers have not fully formed. Generally, varieties of arugula will be ready to pick within 4-5 weeks of planting and reach maturity within 6-7 weeks. In the case that your arugula bolts, the flower and seed pods cans still be put to culinary use.

There are two varieties of arugula, salad types and wild types. Both varieties retain the distinctive peppery flavor of the green, but the wild types tend to be the spiciest and have a longer shelf life. Arugula is generally drought resistant and can thrive in a variety of planting conditions, making it an excellent choice for beginner gardeners.

The entire arugula plant is edible, leaves, flowers, and seed pods. The leaves are the most consumed and most popular portion of the plant, used in salads and snacks or stand out on their own as side dishes. Flowers from the arugula plant share the same peppery flavor as the leaves themselves and add a smattering of color to prepared dishes. Seed pods can be put to use making taramira oil, pickling, or as animal feed.

Planting and Growing

Arugula can be a perpetual producer in your indoor garden, planting weekly or bi-weekly will ensure a consistent crop output. For soil and containers, a well-fertilized blend such as Ocean Forest or Organic Mechanics Container Blend will give your plants the nutrients they need to grow in the soil itself. For boosting flavors and growth in your crops, using beneficial microbes like those found in Stump Tea will help your plants access the full potential of your soil composition.

For planting containers, you’ll want anything that helps your soil drain. Containers that will work best will be Oxy pots and fabric pots, both provide better drainage and flexibility than a regular plastic container. Shallow, wide containers will be best for arugula in particular, as the plant does not grow all that big and has a relatively shallow root system.

• Sow seeds near the surface of your soil.
• Use shallow, wide containers for indoor planting.
• Arugula can thrive in a variety of conditions, but it is best to use fertilized, well draining soil.
• Keep the soil evenly moist throughout growth
• For multiple plants in the same container, thin to about 3 inches to allow for more robust growth
• If growing in early summer, provide some midday shade to prevent heat-stress and minimize the chance of bolting.
• For indoor lighting, cycles of (day/night) 24/0 or 18/6 will work best for this plant.

Harvest

Arugula plants can be harvested when leaves are still developing and flowers have not yet formed. Conversely, one can wait until their arugula develops flowers and seed pods for more variety using the plant. Leaves will have the most flavor when they are still young.

• Once leaves are 3-4 inches long, the whole plant can be harvested or individual leaves can be cut from the plant.
• The white flowers can be cut and harvested off older arugula plants.

Seeds
Below are links out to external sites, all seed sources we’ve used in our HTG Supply stores and our HQ. Most arugula selections will leaf within 30 days and reach full maturity within 50. There are countless options for arugula seeds out there, so be sure to shop around for a variety that meets your specific wants.

Southern Exposure
Arugula – Distinctive, sharp, peppery leaves, 40 days

Johnny’s Seeds
Sylvetta – Wild arugula with yellow flowers, 30-50 days
Astro – Early, heat tolerant, 21-38 days
Bellezia – Upright plant with dark green leaves, 35-51 days

Good Eatin’
Below you can find some recipes that make use of arugula. The arugula, mozzarealla, and tomato on focaccia is a lovely sandwich, made even better with a fried egg on top. Otherwise, take your pick, these all sure sound appetizing to me.

Sugarcane Dreams – Fancy Pickled (Arugula) Pods
Simply Recipes – Arugula, Mozzarella, Tomato on Focaccia
Bon Appetit – 31 Arugula Recipes So You Can Eat It All the Time

Review

You’ve reached the end of this quick crop guide, arugul-awseome! Leafy greens are good crops to start out with, especially if you’re new to indoor gardening. Remember, the keys to a successful arugula grow are maintaining moist soil, providing a lot of light, and harvesting leaves before the plant is mature. That and a little bit of TLC and you’ll be swimming in a 12-24 inch tall forest of arugula in no time! If you decide to put what you’ve read to practical use, let us know at talkingshop@htgsupply.com or on our Facebook, Twitter, and Insta. We’d love to see what you’ve grown!

Authored By: Jacob Stumm

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