A is for Arugula

Arugula going to seed.

Arugula going to seed.

It’s tricky to decide if arugula should be classified as an herb or as a lettuce according to my special taxonomy of yard goodies. But, I’ve decided that arugula should stand alone in my world for the several different qualities it has that I value.

Have you tasted it yet? I’m still trying to sneak it in my kid’s diet, but am not worried if she hasn’t fully developed the taste buds for it. I’m confident that eventually she will embrace it as the rest of the family has.

Arugula is that spicy baby lettuce found in trendy salads. But that isn’t the only reason we love it at our house. We love it here because it is self-sowing. What that really means is that if I forget to start it from seed, or if I forget to buy it from our yearly Master Gardener sale, it will likely reappear on its own. Sometimes I do buy it and plant it at the wrong time of year or plant it in the “wrong” place. Doesn’t matter.

Arugula tastes best if eaten young. But, if we plant it and it bolts (which happens to several varieties of vegetables if an unexpected hot spell occurs), I don’t mind. The more flowering plants in my yard, the better as far as I’m concerned. And if I decide to pull it out, the chickens will appreciate eating it.

I let everything in my garden go to seed except weeds. I do this because a) I’ve learned to recognize baby plants I want that aren’t weeds and b) We have several bee hives, and the bees appreciate the blooms.

Arugula always tastes good in salads. I like it best when it’s mixed with other greens otherwise it can overpower the weak eater. It gets hairy and thorny, as do most lettuces, when it gets older. Arugula can always be used in soups and other recipes requiring a leafy green.

Leafy lettuce greens can grow almost anywhere. Because of the shallow roots, any pot or shallow spot works well. If you want to get artsy about it, you could even use an old desk drawer. But that would end up looking like trash in this household.

Arugula is a good source for phytochemicals, vitamin A,  vitamin K, and folate. It’s easy to grow, good for cooking, good for beneficial insects, and comes up again the next year.

Young arugula have distinct leaves.

Young arugula have distinct leaves.

About master kindergardener

Santa Clara County Master Gardener since 2007, Mom since 2009, Gardener since birth.
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