A Month of Winter Veggies: ARUGULA

Welcome to the wonderful wonders of WINTER GARDENS! I am profiling my favorite winter veggies this month. I hope to introduce you to the joy of growing, harvesting and enjoying these cool weather jewels.

ARUGULA is a spicy baby lettuce that is prevalent at Hope Gardens right now. This little hottie of a green is called roquette or “rocket” in England and it has totally earned that bad ass name in my book. Arugula can have a mild to intense pepperiness. Wild arugula, like Sylvetta, is allegedly more intense but these wild arugula leaves can have less “meat” on them than other arugulas and are slower growing. I prefer the standard arugula, it has a good bite and enough leaf to make a meal of.

Growing roquette from seed is a cinch. The seeds come up quickly and reliably in mild weather. Once the weather gets hot, grow it in the shade or under a shade cover.

Arugula doesn’t form a head but instead grows out like a loose leaf lettuce or depending on the variety, grows out on multiple stems. Arugula can be harvested leaf by leaf or by cutting off the arugula from a patch like a haircut.

Leave 2” of arugula plant behind after harvesting so it can grow some more! Arugula does not get overtly bitter when the flowers arrive like lettuce does. When the flowers do come however, the plant is setting seed, so harvest as soon and as long as you can.

The arugula plant can get spindly after a while so I plant a lot of it, and a couple months later, plant some more. I let some of the arugula drop their seeds to keep the patch going. Arugula is so easy to collect seeds from (just wait till the pods are completely dry) that it makes a great first veg to try your hand at seed propagation. Involve the kids!

Now let’s talk about eating our bounty! You can’t beat arugula once you pair it with lemon and cheese. My best girl Jana Harper makes an Arugula Salad that is always delicious and therefore always present at our tables. Her salad is simple but a taste explosion! She pairs arugula, pepitas and powdered parmesan cheese with a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice and Bragg Liquid Aminos. Simple, nutritious, bright!

Let’s look at some more awesome recipes that will have you out in the garden planting those round, brown little seeds and in a month and a half, enthusiastically harvesting.

My favorite recipe was one my daughter and I invented. It’s not super high on originality but like the salad above, it is fast, simply delicious and has some of our favorite taste profiles. (And I’m obsessed with saving jars for some reason…my depression-era grandma maybe!)

(thanks for the cool pic http://feastingfreds.wordpress.com)

Lemon and Olive Orzo

1 lb. orzo
Juice of 1 lemon (or more)
1 c. black kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 c. arugula, chopped
1/3 c. olive oil
1 c. feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the orzo in a large pot filled with salted water. Place the lemon juice, olives, arugula, oil and cheese in a large bowl and stir well. Set aside. Drain the orzo. Add the orzo to the bowl and toss immediately with the olive mixture. Season and serve.

When you are talking about arugula recipes, arugula pizza is a given. Here’s a great recipe for Lemon Arugula Pizza from Two Peas and Their Pod. I’d throw some chopped cherry tomatoes on here to finish it off.

Arugula helps cut the richness of lots of cheesy, starchy goodness such as this Arugula Grilled Cheese featured on the Kitchn (part of the oh-so-pinable Apartment Therapy site). Here’s how they perfected it: “On a foundation of whole wheat bread we piled slices of comte cheese (similar to gruyere), garden-fresh peppery arugula, and a quick kalamata mayo spread. Then we buttered the outside and grilled it in a hot pan until the outside was golden brown and the cheese was melting.”
Then we took delicious photos!

I love this next recipe as it is an arugula breakfast recipe and I loooove breakfast food. And it uses arugula, of course.

First let me say I appreciate flexibility in recipes. That’s kind of the point. They should be basic directions…a starting point for your imagination. Let’s say you don’t have arugula but you have mustard greens or chard or spinach…you could still follow these recipes. If you have some basic preparations in mind you can always substitute with what ingredients are on hand and have a stellar meal.

With that in mind, there are lots of traditional and non-traditional ways to prepare vegetables. Traditional might include vegetable soup or salad. A non-traditional way would be like this next dish: the tartine.

The tartine is basically an open-faced sandwich. An open-faced sandwich reminds me of the not-very-vegetablely hot turkey sandwich of my diner waitressing days. The tartine, on the other hand (which means slice of bread in French), makes me think of a more sophisticated and creative dish..and my days as a French femme fatale. Let this Egg, Arugula & Herb Tartine inspire your next le petit déjeuner or le dîner.

I hope this post has inspired you to get out there and grow some arugula in-ground or in containers or in pots. The seedlings come up fast and furious and you’ll be enjoying roquette in no time. Invent your own recipes and share them with us on Facebook. For more garden guidance, check out my Hope Gardens Organic Growing Guides here.

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