Growing Your Own Wild Arugula
- Apr 30, 2019
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I started growing wild arugula in my garden early this year. Before this, my only encounter with wild arugula was when I ordered green salad in restaurants. Contrary to its name, this herb doesn’t really grow wild here in the Philippines. The ones that we find in our groceries were actually cultivated in farms. The good news for arugula salad lovers is that wild arugula grows well in containers and doesn’t occupy too much space. So it is easy to grow our own wild arugula right within the comforts of your own home.
Compared to its cousin (rocket arugula), wild arugula has smaller pointed or jagged- edged leaves with a much stronger pungent taste. You only need to add a few leaves to get that peppery arugula flavor in your favorite salad or pizza. You can also add wild arugula in soups or pastas for that spicy arugula flavor. Recently, I discovered a slow-bolting seed variant that you can actually grow throughout the year.
How to start wild arugula from seeds
Wild arugula has tiny seeds so seed soaking is not necessary. Sprinkle a few seeds in a seed starter tray, or directly unto any medium-sized container. Wild arugula has a shallow root system so any well draining container that has a depth of at least 6 inches is sufficient. The seeds germinate in about a week from sowing. For the first few weeks, the tiny seedlings grow quite slowly. Use a spray or a gentle sprinkler hose when watering the delicate seedlings to avoid damaging or uprooting them.
At this early seedling stage, protect them from direct sun or heavy rains. When they are at least 2 inches tall, start thinning out to allow some growing space of at least an inch apart.
Plant care and maintenance
During the peak of summer in Manila, wild arugula may taste bitter, just like the rocket arugula. Our summer heat could also burn the edges of their leaves. Fortunately, wild arugula thrives well in partial shade. In extremely hot conditions like ours, it is best to provide some afternoon shade. Likewise, the hot temperature may also cause them to bolt prematurely. Pinch off any flower bud as soon as it starts to appear so you can continue to harvest their leaves for the next months.
Wild arugula is more tolerant of drought than the regular arugula. For healthier leaves however, ensure that the soil is always moist. Apply organic fertilizer or compost every three weeks, or when the plants have grown their third set of leaves. Pests are usually not a problem for any arugula variety since most insects are not attracted to its aroma nor taste. Occasionally, you’ll find leaf miners infesting some of the leaves. Spray a neem oil solution to address these pest issues.
Harvesting Wild Arugula
The leaves are ready for harvest in about eight weeks from seed starting. You can harvest the entire plant, or simply cut off mature leaves when they are at least two inches long. In warm climates, it is best to harvest the leaves while they are young, as mature leaves may taste bitter.