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Green Patch: Grow Arugula for Gourmet Salads

Enjoy gourmet salads by growing your own peppery, delicious rocket, also known as arugula, in your garden.

| October/November 2011

  • In Europe, arugula is known as rocket or roquette.

Q. What are the strong, peppery- and nutty-flavored greens found in fancy salad mixes?

A. These are known as arugula (Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa) and/or the wild, rustic variety named Diplotaxis tenuifolia ‘Sylvetta’. In its native home of Southern Europe, arugula is also called rocket or roquette. Both arugulas are members of the mustard family. Traditionally, arugula makes up a significant portion of salad and garden seed blends known as mesclun. Mesclun comes to us from the French, and traces back to the Latin word miscere, meaning “to mix.”

Q. I love to make salads with arugula leaves, but I am wondering if the flowers are also edible?

A. Yes! The flowers are definitely fit for the table. Eruca has cream-colored, purple-veined flowers that are extremely fragrant and taste just like the leaves. The wild rustic variety is known in Italy as Rucola selvatica or wild rocket. Rustic has yellow flowers that taste a bit milder than the other species.

Q. Can I grow my own arugula? Do you have any special tips or advice to help me get started?

A. Yes, if you have large growing containers or a small patch of ground for a salad garden, you can grow arugula. It can survive in rather poor soil but the best flavor will come from plants grown in moist, well-drained, loamy, nitrogen-rich garden soil. Arugula also requires full sun.

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