How to plant, harvest and get the most out of arugula

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How to plant, harvest and get the most out of arugula

Arugula not only gives dishes an unmistakable aroma, this aromatic plant also contains vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that promote health. You don’t need a large garden to enjoy fresh, homegrown arugula.

How to plant, harvest and get the most out of arugula

Arugula is a very delicate food. After harvested, it only keeps for a few days before it wilts and loses its aroma. If you grow it yourself, the leaves will always arrive on your plate fresh and at their optimum point. Another advantage is that you will avoid that they are too rich in nitrates because you do not need to use nitrogen fertilizers.

HOW TO GROW ARUGULA

Because almost nothing can go wrong when growing arugula (Eruca vesicaria), this is an easy-care garden plant that is also suitable for beginners.

A sunny, well-drained, but always humid location offers optimal conditions for a rich arugula harvest. If you don’t have a garden, you can grow it on your balcony in a planter or pot. You can sow the seeds anytime between March and September.

If you have other plants in your pots, planters, or garden, you can plant arugula next to lettuce, celery, and onion, but it also goes well with many other vegetables.

HARVESTING THE ARUGULA

Arugula is the perfect leafy vegetable for “lazy gardeners” or those short on time, because once planted, the leaves can be harvested multiple times and will grow back again and again until the end of the season.

You can grow the leaves even more easily by choosing wild arugula, a perennial variant that sprouts the more often the leaves are cut.

The time of harvest also influences the nitrate content of the arugula. The leaves should be harvested after having received a few hours of sun, only in the afternoon or at night. The sun stimulates the metabolism of the plant to consume part of the nitrate stored during the day.

CAN ARUGULA BE TOXIC?

What a strange question some might think, but it’s not entirely unwarranted, because consumer protection organizations regularly warn against excessive nitrate contamination of arugula and other lettuce and leafy greens.

To avoid the problem, it is advisable to give preference to arugula grown in the open air and those grown organically or to grow them yourself. When grown in a greenhouse and using artificial nitrogen fertilizers, as is common in conventional agriculture, the nitrate content is particularly high.

RECIPES WITH ARUGULA

Arugula is very versatile in the kitchen and can be used either as a leafy salad or as a culinary herb. Because young leaves wilt quickly and lose their aroma, they are best used fresh and raw.

GREEN ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH ARUGULA

Ingredients (for four servings):

  • 500 g green asparagus
  • 100 g of arugula
  • 100 g cherry tomatoes or strawberries
  • 50g grated parmesan or vegan almond parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of honey or a vegan honey substitute
  • Pepper
  • Salt

Elaboration:

  1. Remove the woody ends of the asparagus stalks, and when the skin feels very firm, remove the bottom two inches and cut the stalks into medium-sized pieces. If you use white asparagus, peel it as usual, cook it al dente, and also cut it into chunks.
  2. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, honey, spices and chopped herbs to taste with a whisk and marinate the asparagus in the mixture.
  3. Cut the tomatoes or strawberries into small pieces and add them to the asparagus with the clean lettuce and cheese. Mix briefly and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

BASIC ARUGULA AND WALNUT PESTO

The following nut pesto recipe takes a few minutes to implement and can be easily modified with all kinds of ingredients.

Ingredients (for a small jar of 220 grams):

  • 130 g walnuts
  • 30-50 g of parmesan or for a vegan pesto 1-2 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast or other vegan parmesan substitute
  • 100 ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ bunch of arugula
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste


Elaboration:

  1. Toast the walnuts in an oil-free skillet until they begin to give off a light toasted fragrance. Let the toasted walnuts cool slightly.
  2. Put all the ingredients except the pepper and arugula in a food processor and mix until you get a smooth paste.
  3. Gradually add the arugula and keep mixing until the walnut paste suits your taste. Season to taste with salt, pepper and, if necessary, a little vegetable oil.

Homemade pecan pesto will be ready to serve and will keep for about two weeks if placed in a clean, sterilized jar with a screw cap.

It goes perfectly with gnocchi and pasta (homemade) and is also suitable for spreading or dressing seitan or vegetable meatballs.

It is best to always use a clean spoon to scoop the pesto and coat it with a layer of olive oil before storing it in the refrigerator. In this way, no germs will be introduced that could spoil the preparation.

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