Wild Arugula

Now is the time to plan the garden for next year. I already have most of the seeds that I want to plant in 2019, but I’m still going over what I might want to grow more thoroughly, and thinking about trying even more!

One thing I will definitely be growing is arugula — wild arugula, that is. It’s something that I can grow all year long, it’s super easy to grow, and it grows very quickly, so I can tuck it between slower growing plants and harvest it before — or when — things get crowded.

Wild arugula (often called “sylvetta”) is significantly different from the other kind. In fact, they’re two different species that don’t even share a genus, though they are both in the Brassica family. Wild arugula (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) is spicier than the other arugula (Eruca sativa). It doesn’t seem to get a skunky flavor, like the other kind can. And the wild kind has tough little tap roots, so I can often twist off the leaves, leaving the root in the ground, and a whole new set of leaves will grow. It’s a perennial, too, while the other kind is an annual. I’ve had rows of wild arugula overwinter easily in Portland. If it actually gets cold enough to cause the leaves to die back, it will still regrow in the spring.

On the other hand, it also tolerates our hot, dry summers well, too. If it begins to bolt, pinching off the flowers will keep it going, and they can be eaten with the leaves.

However, as the plant gets older, the tougher the stems become and the less leafy it is, in my experience.  If I let it go to seed, it could naturalize in my garden as a desirable weed, so that I’d always have some new arugula springing up to pick, without having to sow it myself….I just might try that, next year.

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(A packet of seeds from one of my favorite suppliers, Territorial Seed Company, picked up this summer from my local Birds & Bees Nursery.)

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