Obsessed with arugula; A gardener's guide

Written by Doug Oster on .

This basket is filled with winter greens including arugula, which has become my favorite. Photo by Doug Oster

Gardening is a journey of discovery. We fall in love with plants, try to master them and then often move on.

My obsession with arugula dates back to 2006 on a dream trip to Italy for our 25th anniversary.

Sitting along the back streets of Rome,  my wife ordered an antipasto salad as a starter and it was filled with "rocket." We had no idea what it was. As we worked our way through the amazing salad, we figured out the intense flavor of the greens were arugula. We were hooked.

Arugula can be grown all year long with protection. In the winter, it's covered to keep the cold away. During the summer, it's grown in the shadow of other plants to keep it from going to seed (bolting) in the heat.

It's one of those love it, or hate greens. Arugula is spicy, peppery with each variety being a little different.

I loved the 'Wasabi' arugula offered my Renee's Garden Seeds. It bolted early, but I'm going to try planting it very early and also in the fall to see how it does. It would be perfect with a sushi recipe. I know a sushi chef at Sushi Tomo in Ross and I'm hoping to grow enough for him to experiment with. By the way, that's where I go with the film crew after we film Digging with Doug.

They most often direct sowed in the garden is good garden soil improved with organic matter like compost. They also can be started in flats and transplanted into the garden. Arugula loves cool weather, but there are varieties that hold up to the heat. In my experience, summer grown arugula is the spiciest of all.

Here's a list of the different varieties I've found in this year's catalogs. I'm going to try and grow all of them...I can't wait.

Love planning for the spring!

Here's everything Renee's has to offer.

'Italian' Luscious tangy leaves with a nutty zip are easy to grow, carefree and absolutely essential for today's salads.

'Runaway' This outstanding arugula selection is distinguished by  attractive, deeply lobed, oak leaf shaped foliage. In our garden trials, Runway tastes deliciously tangy.

'Rustic' Imported from Italy, very finely cut, deeply indented green leaves and edible blossoms. Holds much longer than regular arugula, with same tangy flavor. Perennial in mild climates

'Rustic Style' Italian heirloom forms rosettes of deeply indented leaves with a piquant, tangy flavor. Great in salads, pizza or pasta. Lasts longer than common arugula. Pretty edible yellow blossoms.

'Organic True Italian' Easy and fast growing salad plant whose fresh peppery leaves adds real zip and tangy flavor that shines in salads and sandwiches. Pretty edible blossoms attract pollinators.

'Wasabi' Brand-new unique wild arugula leaves have an incredibly delicious and spicy flavor exactly like freshly made wasabi paste. Easy to grow with pretty edible flowers. More weather tolerant than other arugulas.

Here's some varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

'Pronto' Very serrated foliage, medium-green, which has quite a spicy taste. Unique in salads.

'Wild Rocket' Has a more pungent taste than regular arugula, leaves are deeply lobed. An Italian favorite.

Here's one from Peaceful Valley Garden and Farm Supply. They also carry many of Renee's seeds too.

'Sylvetta' This tender perennial variety has classic arugula taste with a slightly sharper, peppery flavor. Hardier and more adaptable than standard arugula, Sylvetta thrives in cold weather and is especially suited to growing in protected winter conditions. 3-5" plants are more open, smaller and slower growing with more deeply cut leaves than standard arugula.  Perennial in zones 6-10.

High Mowing Seeds sells all organic seeds.

'Astro' Standard arugula variety with long, green leaves and that characteristic spicy flavor.

'Surrey' Fast growing with deep lobes and upright habit...It looks like a cross between Astro and Wild Arugula, taking the best from each.

'Gracia' Improved Sylvetta' is slower bolting in the field and better holding on the shelf...Grazia has the same small, fine serrated leaves as wild arugula, but is noted for it’s superiority under warm and cold growing conditions.

Here's a few more from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine.

'Olive Leafed Sylvetta' Unique leaf shape with that true wild arugula pungency. Also slow growing like typical wild arugula. Yellow flowers.

'Dragon's Tongue' New! Dark green, lobed leaves with a red vein. The unusual coloring and piquant flavor make this wild arugula a unique addition to salad mixes.

Garden obsessions feed our souls and keep us going during the winter.

I can't wait to plant a garden of arugula!





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