Why I Love to Grow Arugula in My Garden

Check out this photo of my garden. Yes, that’s arugula growing but I didn’t plant it. All these plants sprouted up due to my actions – or I should say inaction – last summer. I let some of my arugula go to seed and this was the result. This area is designated for zucchini so I will be harvesting most of my bounty while the plants are very young.

My very own microgreens (Take a quick look at the surprising nutritional value of microgreens versus regular greens.)

Now I know that many people are not fans of arugula. They find it to be too peppery and bitter tasting. But take heart, you can become an arugula lover without a huge amount of effort. You just need to try it over and over again and over time, the taste can be appealing.

I remember back when I started eating it and I put small amounts into our family salads which were comprised of mild tasting greens. They definitely balked at the idea but I persisted and over time, I added more arugula and less of the regular lettuce that I had been using. My perseverance certainly did the trick and they now love to eat arugula salads.

From a nutritional point of view, it is definitely worth acquiring a taste for arugula, a.k.a. rocket and roquette. Like other dark leafy greens, it offers nutrients like potassium and  folate along with antioxidants like beta carotene and that vision-protecting pigment combo of lutein and zeaxanthin.

Arugula is also a member of the botanical family, known as Brassica, which includes broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower. Each member has been shown to provide various anti-cancer actions and arugula fits right in here. But keep in mind that it’s the vegetable’s bitter compounds (such as glucosinolates) that supply these benefits. These substances are linked to assorted cancer-fighting benefits including advantages for breast and pancreatic cancer.

(Keep in mind that eating these foods is never a treatment for cancer but combined with a variety of plant foods offers a defence against these diseases.)

How to eat it
Here are some simple ways to incorporate arugula into meals. You’ll also want to use these tips if you are buying clamshells of this green and want to finish it up.

• Salads are an obvious one but for arugula newbies, including lots of other ingredients will just provide a small taste of the green. (A recipe including chicken, grains and dried fruit will be up on my next post.)

• Use it as a sandwich garnish instead of lettuce and/or other vegetables. I love it on avocado toast or atop smoked salmon.

• Enjoy it as a pasta dish ingredient. When tossing pasta with sauce, add in a few handfuls of arugula and it will wilt but not be cooked.

• Toss coarsely chopped arugula into grain side dishes – both hot and cold ones before serving.

Now back to growing your own arugula. Throughout the season, you can harvest leaves from the plant and let it continue to grow. But British research which looked at arugula growing and harvesting found that first cut leaves were associated with increased consumer acceptance. As summer temperatures increased and the plants cut multiple times, the arugula’s glucosinolate content increased and the plants’ bitter taste increased. As you become an arugula lover, though, that peppery taste will be welcomed. And you’ll get those extra compounds, to boot.

As for growing it, if you don’t have a yard, you can grow it in containers on a balcony and it too, will likely come back the next year. It grows like a weed – which can sometimes be a problem. I’ve even spied arugula growing in the cracks in my front driveway. My older daughter does grow it on her balcony in containers and one day when I was in the front of her apartment building, I saw arugula in the cracks on the sidewalk. I just smiled.

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Categories: Food Trends, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Why I Love to Grow Arugula in My Garden”

  1. vivien frenkel
    June 4, 2021 at 6:49 am #

    Very helpful article on arugula. Thank you.

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