This herbaceous annual is native to the Mediterranean region. It has been cultivated since Roman times and is considered an aphrodisiac. The leaves are rich in vitamin C and iron. Arugula hosts certain species of butterfly, including Garden Carpet.
Tolerates dry, poor soils. For the optimum harvest, plant in well-composted, loose soil. Prefers mildly acidic pH, so add lime to our strongly acidic Florida soils.
Keep moist while the plant is young. Once established it should do well without much water. The flavor gets stronger as the weather warms and the plant receives less irrigation.
Tolerates partial shade and will grow in full sun. Shading from the midday sun will extend the harvest season.
Arugula is a cool-season crop and thrives in cold weather.
Cut frequently to promote tender, young leaves. Leaves develop a furry underside as they toughen. The plant matures quickly (two to three months from seed). Handle gently when harvesting to avoid damaging leaves.
Collect seeds from the dried plants at the end of spring, and plant in the fall.
Pests: No major pests. It is a nice companion plant for growing with other herbs and vegetables.
Harvesting, storage, and preparation
The leaves are particularly flavorful and excellent for gourmet cooking. They add a peppery taste to salads or pesto, and they can also be chopped roughly or torn and sprinkled onto pizzas.