Arugula is a staple crop at our farm for good reason. Not only is it delicious at all stages of its growth, but its more tolerant to our winter heat than other salad greens, and its relatively pest free. We plant arugula almost every week to ensure a constant harvest of young leaves for the CSA and farmers market. When arugula plants are about 4 weeks old their leaves are very soft and tender, perfect for eating raw in salads. Once the plant matures past that stage its leaves get spicier and more fibrous, making it a better option for cooking instead, although they can still be used raw if cut into thin strips. We grow our arugula under low tunnels; these are like low temporary hoop house structures that we use to keep the direct sun off of the tender leaves and also to protect them from harsh rain (which can break the leaves or splash lots of unwanted dirt and sand onto the leaves) and from pests. We grow a few varieties of arugula, our most traditional is called "astro" which you can see in the photo above. We are also trying out a deeply lobed more decorative and wild variety called Surrey.
Arugula can be used to top pizzas, as is traditional in Italy, or you can use the greens to make a spicy pesto. When we farmers find ourselves with too many we make arugula pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays for use during the summer when local fresh green ingredients are a challenge to find. This recipe for pesto is right up our alley, with plenty of garlic and parmesan included.
Besides arugula there are a few other young greens varieties that we grow and mix together to make a spicy salad blend. Scarlet frill mustard greens, mizuna mustard, and garnet giant mustard are all relatives of arugula with similar flavor profiles. At the farm we plant all of these varieties almost weekly and once its time to harvest salad mix for the CSA we take the best of the greens varieties and mix them up to produce a fun and unique blend. Our Arugula and our spicy salad mix are washed and dried on the farm so it can be eaten right out of the bag!
Arugula growing under temporary hoop tunnels used to keep the direct sun off of the tender leaves and also to protect them from harsh rain and bugs.