Collect and store the arugula

Arugula is a leafy vegetable that is eaten fresh in salads and is characterized by a marked spicy taste.

It is a really simple species to grow in the garden: it grows quickly and has good resistance to adverse climatic conditions, so it can be harvested for a good part of the year. It can also be safely kept in pots, with excellent results.

Some advice on how and when to collect arugula leaves can be useful, to have the best flavor and also the greatest productivity, we will also see some suggestions on how we can store this salad after harvest.

When harvesting the rocket

Arugula is a leafy vegetable, so ripening is not to be expected (a prerogative of the fruit) and you can pick the leaves at any time.

However, there is a better time to seize them, in fact:

  • Very young leaves are excellent (tender and delicate), but being very small leaves, taking them prematurely means harvesting very little, in terms of quantity. Better to wait for them to grow.
  • Leaves that are too old, on the other hand, can be spicier, to the point of having a less pleasant taste, rude and even with a bitter touch. So don’t wait too long.

The right time to pluck is when the leaf is about 10 cm long.

From the moment of sowing, the rocket is ready to be picked within 4-6 weeks.

Apart from these rules, however, in a family garden, the need for consumption dictates the timing of the harvest: if we want to eat rocket we can pick it even if it is 6 cm high, if vice versa we do not need it, let it grow up to 15 cm.

Harvest rocket all year round

Arugula has a beautiful prerogative: it can be grown for almost the whole year. It is a very rustic plant, which resists the cold well and therefore can also be kept in the winter garden, we can say that rocket is always a seasonal vegetable. However, there are some precautions if we want to extend the useful period.

To germinate it requires 18-20 degrees, its ideal temperature is 15-20 degrees, withstands up to 5 degrees. It does not like heat, above 25 degrees it suffers and with arid heat, it can go into pre-flowering.

Therefore, it is advisable to use a greenhouse or cold tunnel in winter (from October or November, depending on the area, and until February), alternatively, non-woven fabric sheets can also help. This allows for harvesting even in the cold season.

Summer is also a time when arugula plants can have problems: constant irrigation and shading nets are excellent tricks.

Flowering and pre flowering

Being a biennial plant after the first year it will go to seed. The leaves of a flowering rocket plant can be eaten but are of much worse quality, which is why cultivation usually ends with flowering. The small fruits can be left to ripen, to obtain seeds that will be useful for starting new sowing of the rocket.

As already mentioned, flowering can also occur in advance, if the plant is in adverse weather conditions, in particular, the risk is during the dry summer.

Harvest and spiciness

We have seen that rocket leaves are spicier if you wait to pick them, a clarification is important.

The flavor of the rocket does not depend only on the time of harvest, but also on the variety sown: there is a wild rocket, which is spicier, and cultivated rocket, a decidedly more delicate variety.

Furthermore, depending on the type of soil, climate, irrigation, you can have a more or less spicy rocket.

How to collect leaves

Collecting rocket leaves is very simple: you only need a knife with which to cut the leaves at the base. The important precaution is to cut above the collar, without damaging it. In this way, the rocket plant will go to repossess and in a few weeks, we will have a new crop.

In the cultivation cycle, the rocket usually rejects from 5 to 8 times, so it guarantees a periodic production of leaves.


Store the rocket

Arugula leaves spoil quickly, like most salads. For this reason, the best thing is undoubtedly to collect just before use.

Ideal storage is in the refrigerator, better wrap the leaves in a cloth, which will act as a humidity regulator. That way we can keep it for a week, then it will start to wither.

Eventually, the rocket can be washed and frozen.

An excellent idea of use is to make a rocket pesto, to be used as a tasty sauce. Even the jar of pesto can be shredded.

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