This salad vegetable is a part of the Brassicaceae family, the same with broccoli, cabbage, turnip, radish, and kale, among others. Its leaves have a single large terminal lobe and up to ten lateral lobes. They are dark green, long, and slender, making them a great addition to salads. The length will be approximately three to eight inches, depending on how mature it is. It is believed to have been around since the Roman times. Its traditional uses include being an oil and an offering to the gods. Today, it is popular mostly for its culinary purposes, not only for salads, but also for pizzas, pastas, soups, and even for a digestive alcohol.
While there are many varieties of arugula that you might want to plant indoors, one of the most popular is Sylvetta or Wild Rocket. It grows slowly and has a stronger flavor, making it a favorite for many chefs. It is important to be familiar with the different varieties to know if they will survive in an indoor environment and to learn how to properly take care of the plant throughout its growth. Also, choose a variety depending on how you intend to use your arugula.
Planting and Growing Conditions
To start, purchase seeds from a reputable supplier within your area. Pay attention to the specific variety and read the instructions carefully. In most cases, however, planting the seeds will involve the same steps. Once you have the seeds ready, look for a container or pot. Even a small one will already suffice. Fill the container with your choice of potting mix. You do not need a lot of it. Sow the seeds at a depth of about ¼ inch. You do not have to plant it deep. To speed up the germination, keep the soil moist, but it should never be soggy. With this, it is also important for the container to have drainage holes so that water will be able to flow out.
Wait until the seeds germinate. When you see several sprouts, thin them and retain only those that are strongest. At this point, you can also plant new seeds so that there will still be arugula in the container after harvesting those that have already grown.
One of the essential factors for the growth of the plant is sunlight. It is important to position it in a place that receives full sun, which will also contribute to the quick growth of the plant. Nonetheless, it should not receive direct sun, so having a shade will help. If it is in an environment that is too hot, there is a high likelihood that the leaves will be too bitter.
Within a month after planting the seeds, your arugula will be ready for harvest. Do not wait for a long time before picking the leaves. The younger ones are tender and delicious, which make them the best for your salad. Once the seedlings reach a height of three to four inches, you are not ready to harvest you can take out the leaves only if you want the plant to grow continuously.
As one of the essential salad greens, arugula can deliver a wide array of health benefits, which include the following:
- Protection from Cancer: As a cruciferous vegetable, arugula contains glucosinolates. When they are eaten, they will break down into beneficial compounds that will offer protection from the growth of cancer cells.
- Improves Eye Vision: Arugula is also instrumental for a better eye health. Two of the compounds that make this possible are zeaxanthin and lutein, which are antioxidants that prevent macular degeneration and other vision problems.
- Strengthens the Bone: As we age, the bones will inevitably become weaker. Arugula will help to make it stronger and lessen the likelihood of suffering from osteoporosis. One of the main reasons for it is because its leaves are high in Vitamin K.
- Boosts the Immune System: Consuming arugula in large quantities is also instrumental in allowing the body to have greater defense against health problems. It has Vitamin C and a plethora of nutrients that will prevent health damages.
- Helps in Weight Loss: If you are eating salad for weight management, adding arugula is sure to be beneficial. It is a nutrient-rich plant that will be perfect for a calorie-restrictive diet. A 100-gram serving of arugula contains only 25 calories.
- Reduces Inflammation: The anti-inflammatory effect of arugula is another reason why it is a superfood. This benefit is primarily because of the indole-3-carbinol, as well as the isothiocyanates, which are effective in the suppression of inflammation in the different parts of the body.
- Protects from Cognitive Decline: Another good reason to eat arugula is the fact that it boosts the brain function. It has B Vitamins and folate both of which are essential in improving mental health especially for those who are aging.
Pests and Diseases
Even if arugula is indoors, it is not safe from pests. With this, some that will most commonly cause an infestation include cabbage worms, slugs, and flea beetles. On the other hand, some of the most common diseases that it can suffer from are bacterial blight, white rust, and downy mildew.
Care and Maintenance
Arugula needs love and attention, but not as much as other more demanding indoor plants. With this, here are some things that you should do to make sure that it stays healthy:
- To be sure that there will be continuous harvest, do not pull out the entire plant. Rather, pinch leaves only from the base and leave a small part on the soil. Through time and with proper care, this will grow delicious leaves again.
- The most demanding part of growing arugula is watering. Regular watering is needed to encourage the quick germination of the seeds. Watering is more important during the hotter months. In such periods, make sure as well that the plant will have shade.
- Because even indoor arugula can be prone to insect infestation, it will also be good to add diatomaceous earth in the container. This will provide a protective barrier against the likes of flea beetles.
A flavorful and healthy salad will not be complete without adding arugula. It has a peppery and spicy flavor that you will surely love. Rather than buying one from the supermarket, you can plant your own arugula at home and pick the leaves as you need them, providing you with an assurance of their freshness. Luckily, even if you are a novice gardener, it will be easy to succeed in growing arugula.