If you’re looking for an easy way to make salads more tasty, try adding arugula. This leafy green from the Mediterranean region has been appreciated as a tasty edible since ancient Roman times. It has long been popular in Italy and other European countries, but only in recent decades has it gained a following in the U.S. Arugula’s tender leaves have a delightfully spicy flavor, and the new cultivar ‘Wasabi’ adds an even more peppery bite. Sow ‘Wasabi’ arugula in early spring in the garden or patio containers; seedlings will pop up in just a few days and grow rapidly in cool conditions. Harvest young leaves frequently and toss them in salads, on pizza, and in any other dish that needs a flavor boost.
Common name: ‘Wasabi’ arugula
Botanical name: Eruca sativa subsp. vesicaria ‘Wasabi’
Plant type: Annual
Zones: All (grow as a winter crop in warmest zones)
Height: 4 to 6 inches
• Sun: Full sun, will tolerate some part-day shade
• Soil: Average garden soil amended with compost
• Moisture: Evenly moist but well-drained
• Mulch: None
• Pruning: Harvest individual leaves with a garden scissors or pruner.
• Fertilizer: Top-dress with compost or apply a balanced fertilizer solution.
Pests and diseases
• No major pests or diseases
• Arugula prefers cool weather. When temperatures rise, the leaves may develop a hotter flavor, and the plants start to bolt. Let a few plants go to flower—the flowers are edible and make a pretty addition to salads.
• To keep a steady stream of arugula coming to your kitchen, sow small sections of arugula seeds every week or two through early summer, then start again when temperatures cool in late summer or early fall.
All in the family
• Arugula is a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), a large family that includes many edible plants and quite a few common weeds.
• Edible plants in the mustard family include mustard (greens and seeds), broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, kale, and watercress.
• The mustard family used to be called Cruciferae, a name still reflected in the term “cruciferous vegetables” (such as those listed above), which are valuable additions to a healthy diet.
Where to buy
• Renee’s Garden Seeds, Felton, CA, 888-880-7228, www.reneesgarden.com
(Photo courtesy Renee’s Garden Seeds)