Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Botanical name: Eruca vesicaria
Arugula is a leafy green herb of the mustard family. Known also as rocket, Italian cress, roquette, and rucola has elongated dark green leaves that are lobed like the leaves of an oak. In the ground, the plant resembles a loose lettuce with long, slender leaves. The flavor of the leaves is similarly hot and peppery. The leaves can be between 3 and 8 inches (7.5–20 centimeters) in length, depending on the maturity of the leaf. Native to the Mediterranean region, arugula has been grown as a vegetable since the Roman era. The flowers are small, white with dark centers and can be used in the salad for a light piquant flavor. The seed was used for flavoring oils.
How to grow
Arugula seed prefers a cool soil temperature of 40 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit and prefer a slightly shaded area in which to grow. For the best results, the soil should be fertile and loose, but Arugula will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions and will grow just about anywhere provided water is available
When planting the seeds in the open soil, sow the seeds one inch apart and in rows that are located 12 to 18 inches apart. Cover the seed with 1/8th of an inch of soil and apply water. The seeds should sprout in 3 to 10 days (longer in cooler than ideal temperatures). For a continuous crop, sow another row every two weeks and this will insure that new cuttings are available at regular intervals.
Once the seedlings are established and begin to crowd one another, thin the plants to four inches apart. (At this stage, you are encouraged to use the thinning).
Arugula matures very quickly, typically within 40 days. Care should be taken not to allow the leaves to grow too large as they are susceptible to growing very bitter and will be tough. (Arugula also becomes bitter if grown in full sun, so this is definitely a crop for growing in places where many others will not grow). For the best results, select young, tender leaves.
To harvest simply pick the young leaves when the leaves are still smooth and the plant will keep generating new ones for months. Older leaves are a bit tougher and have a stronger taste.