About Arugula

Arugula is a peppery-tasting salad green. It is popular among edible gardeners because it is ready to harvest from seed in just a few weeks (probably why it is also known as “rocket green” in some parts of the world). Arugula can be planted in the spring and fall, and grows and tastes best in cool weather. If you have space in your garden now, this is the week to direct-seed arugula.

Arugula seedlings

How do you know when it is ready to harvest? 

If you prefer baby greens, you can harvest the leaves when they are young. Otherwise, wait until the leaves are slightly bigger (like what you see at the store). To harvest arugula, simply cut the green off at the stem, about an inch or so from the base. Only cut the leaves that are ready to harvest, the plant will continue to produce more leaves and you’ll get multiple harvests out of a single plant.

How do you store them?

Thoroughly submerge the arugula in cold water for less than a minute. Gently swish the water to loosen any debris. If there is a lot of debris, drain and rinse again until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly in a colander, or a salad spinner if you have one. The drier your arugula is before putting in the bag, the longer it will stay crisp and fresh. Store loosely in a plastic or damp cloth bag in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. Allowing the greens to have some air circulation will prevent them from getting soggy. Although best enjoyed right away, arugula will last three-five days stored this way.

How do you cook them?

Wash arugula in plenty of cold water (may also add a bit of salt to help draw dirt away from the leaves). Young, tender arugula is best by itself in a salad or a sandwich. If the peppery taste is too strong for you, try mixing it with other milder lettuce varieties.

Arugula can also be steamed, sautéed, or added to a variety of dishes such as pasta, or pizza fresh out of the oven. Cook very lightly to retain its bright green color and delicate texture. Arugula also makes a great substitute for basil in pesto.


Arugula and Ricotta Pesto

-makes about 1 ½ cups pesto-

3 medium garlic cloves

¼ cup pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds

1 cup packed fresh arugula leaves, washed and dried thoroughly

1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves, washed and dried thoroughly

¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves

¼ cup + 3 TB olive oil

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

2 TB parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor or blender, combine garlic, nuts or seeds, arugula, parsley, basil, and oil. Pulse just until it forms a smooth mixture (don’t overmix, will reduce the fresh flavor). Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the cheeses, salt, and pepper.

Try pesto with cooked pasta (add a few tablespoons of pasta water to the pesto to help coat the pasta), on a pizza, or as a dip.

*Made too much? Pesto made with basil oxidizes quickly, so it is best stored in the freezer in ice cube trays, covered with plastic wrap. Then you can just pop out small portions and use them when you need them! Allow them to come to room temp gradually to keep the fresh flavor, or toss with warm pasta.*