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About Arugula: Arugula, an herb from the mustard family, comes from the Mediterranean region. Its leaves have a peppery, mustard like flavor, and are high in vitamins A and C as well as being a good source of iron. Aphrodisiac potions containing the oil of the arugula seed were common for centuries; oil of arugula also provided an excellent flavoring. Part of a typical Roman meal was to offer a salad of greens featuring arugula, and vendors in 14th century Florence sold these greens as a topping on toasted bread. Arugula is now grown in most parts of the world, though Italian cuisine features it most popularly; it is typically used in fresh green salads, in pesto, or lightly sauteed.

Arugula Germination: When all danger of frost has passed, direct sow arugula in full sun or partial shade, 1/4" deep and 3-6" apart in rows 10" apart. For a continuous harvest, plant a new crop every 2-3 weeks until the heat of summer; arugula tastes best when grown as a spring or fall crop, since excess heat causes bitterness in the leaves. For a fall crop, plant the seeds in late summer. Arugula also grows well as a container plant, or throughout the winter in a greenhouse or cold frame.

Growing Arugula Seeds: Arugula can tolerate light frost, but if heavy frost comes, provide protection for the plant. Keep the soil moist, and apply a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and discourage weeds. Watch out for aphids and other insect pests.

Harvesting Arugula: The first leaves can be harvested about two or three weeks after planting, when they reach 2-3" long. The smaller leaves have a more tender texture and delicate flavor than the larger leaves, which can be quite peppery and intense in flavor; cut the leaves just above the soil, removing the outer leaves first. By the time the plant develops flowers the leaves may be too bitter to eat, though the flowers are also edible and make an excellent garnish. The harvested leaves quickly lose their freshness and should be used within about 6 days. Before storing them, rinse the leaves thoroughly to remove any sand and dry them well. They can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Saving Arugula Seeds: Watch the developing seed pods carefully, since they explode when they are completely mature. Remove the pods as soon as they are brown and nearly dry, and spread them to finish drying in a protected location; keep in mind that they may need to be covered to prevent losing the seed when the pods explode. Remove debris from the seeds and store in a cool, dry place for up to four years.

Detailed Arugula Info: Eruca vesicaria var. sativa. Also known as Salad Rocket, Colewort, Roka, Gargeer, Roquette, Rucola, Rugula, Italian Cress. Biennial. 40 days. Zone 4-9. 18,500 seeds per oz. 18-24" height. 6-9" spacing. Produces a loose bunch of slender dark green oakleaf type leaves, and small four petaled white flowers with purple veins.

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