Arugula, or rucola, is such an important part of our diet around here that we try to keep it growing all year long. It’s actually fairly easy to grow in winter, because it loves cool weather and can tolerate a frost. Summer’s heat is a much bigger obstacle to having a steady supply. Here’s our strategy:
We direct seed arugula coltivata several times throughout the spring and we plant enough that we can cut a small amount whenever we need it. Once the weather starts to really heat up, though, arugula wants to go to seed. As soon as we see a fuzzy bud in the center of an arugula plant, we know that its days are numbered. Once it flowers, and it will flower fast, the leaves will become very peppery and tough.
So at the first sign plants are sending up their flower stems, we cut it all. We go through the planting with a stout pair of scissors and shear off every plant. Back in the kitchen, we fill a big bowl with cold water and dump in the arugula leaves, swish them around, and leave them to soak for an hour or so. This serves three functions: first, it removes the heat from the leaves; second, it rehydrates any leaves that are wilted; and third, soil particles float off the leaves and drop to the bottom of the bowl.
We wash it again in a second bowl, this time in smaller handfuls, to be sure we have gotten off all the soil. As each handful gets swished through the second wash, we put the leaves in a salad spinner and spin them dry.
The clean and dry arugula should then be put into large zipper bags or storage boxes, with a paper towel in the bottom of each to absorb excess moisture. Then it’s into the fridge, where the properly processed arugula will keep well for up to two weeks.
Next, it’s back to the garden to plant more seeds. Arugula will germinate in very warm soil, as high as 85-90 degrees, and it will grow quickly when kept moist. Two to three weeks later, you’ll have baby arugula ready for another harvest. Thanks to our super-generous seed counts, one packet of Franchi Arugula Ortolani will keep most gardeners supplied all year.
We recommend you use arugula coltivata, not arugula selvatica, for summer production. It’s quicker, which is what you need when the weather is hot.
With a steady supply of arugula, you will never have to buy lettuce for summer salads and sandwiches!