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arugula plant
how to tutorials | March 29, 2018

How to Harvest Arugula Without Killing the Plant

Arugula is a leafy green veggie with a distinctive flavor and taste that differentiates it from other salad greens. It is healthy, nutrient-dense and high in fiber, which makes it a great choice for all types of salads, or as a pizza, nacho or sandwich topping.

If harvested properly, the arugula plants will grow back for an endless supply of greens throughout the entire season!

So, before you rush to plant your arugula seeds, check out our guide below where you can find everything you need to know about harvesting and storing fresh arugula.

Arugula Overview

Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the same family as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and brussels sprouts. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, folate, vitamins C, A and K and more.

Arugula’s leaves, seeds and flowers are all edible. The leaves have a very distinct shape, with notches up and down on both sides of the leaf, although they can vary a lot from one variety of arugula to the next. They tend to have a spicy, peppery and slightly tart flavor and can be eaten both raw and cooked. When cooked, the leaves have a slightly less spicy and more mellow flavor than when eaten raw.

How to Harvest Arugula

Arugula is a fast-growing crop that can be harvested soon after sowing. Depending on the variety of arugula you’ve planted, you can expect to harvest its leaves in 20-50 days after sowing.

arugula sprouting

So, in about three weeks or more of growth, or when the plants get at least 6" tall, identify the largest, outer leaves that are big enough to eat and start harvesting.  

There are two methods you can use to harvest your arugula plants and those include:

1. Leaf by leaf

With the cut-and-come-again method you can have fresh arugula at your disposal throughout the season, or even during the whole year, especially if you live in an area where the winters are mild, or if you keep your plants indoors.

Use your hands, a pair of scissors or a serrated knife and cut the stems of the leaves about an inch from the crown or the leaf base.

You can simply take a few leaves off each plant and leave the rest to continue growing for the next harvest.

Work around the plants to pinch off the larger leaves, taking about a quarter to a third of the total plant material. Don’t take too much off the plant so it can have the chance to recover fast and produce more leaves. This will allow new growth to develop from the center for continuous harvests.

This method is quite simple and is a great way to have fresh arugula at your disposal at all times.

2. Harvesting the whole plant

If you want to harvest all of the arugula plants at once to make space in your garden for other herbs and spices, or because you’ve noticed that the plants are about to flower and want to get all the leaves before they change flavor, then this method is for you.

Simply loosen up the soil around the plants using your fingers and harvest the arugula plants by pulling them up from the ground, roots and all. If you want the plants to re-seed so you can have arugula popping up in your garden the next year, leave some of the plants to flower and complete their self-seeding cycle.

When to Harvest Arugula

As we mentioned above, the harvesting period for arugula begins around 20-50 days after sowing, and mostly depends on the variety of arugula you’ve planted.

However, no matter what type of arugula you have, you can start harvesting it as soon as the leaves get large enough to eat, or even before that if you want to get baby arugula leaves. If the leaves are at least two to three inches long, they are ready for harvesting as baby greens.

Arugula grows best during spring and fall, in milder temperatures of around 60° and 65°F. When temperatures reach 70°F - 75°F that’s when the arugula plants typically stop producing leaves and start preparing for flowering and re-seeding.

The easiest way to tell that your plants are about to bolt (flower) is to check the top of the plants for the appearance of small, weedy-looking leaves that lack that signature lobed or rounded shape of the arugula leaves. This means that the plant is close to flowering, and if that happens, the arugula leaves will change flavor and become more bitter. At this point you can harvest all the leaves of the arugula plant, while they’re still good.

And if you’re out of ideas and don’t know what to prepare with your freshly harvested arugula leaves, here’s a delicious and tasty Roots and Shoots Garden Salad Recipe you can try.

How to Store Fresh Arugula

The best way to make sure you avoid wasting arugula is to always harvest as much as you can use right away. However, if you’ve harvested more than you need, there are ways that you can store your fresh arugula leaves for later use.

1. In the crisper drawer

If you’ve got more arugula than you can prepare right away, the easiest way to store it and keep it fresh for a few days is to wrap it in damp paper towels or a damp cloth, place it in a plastic bag or container and keep it in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. This method will keep arugula leaves fresh for up to 5 days or more.

2. In a glass of water

Another effective way of storing freshly picked arugula leaves, or whole arugula plants with the roots attached, is to place them in a glass jar or any other upright container with an inch of water to keep them fresh. If you change the water in the jar regularly, you can keep the leaves fresh for up to a week.

arugula in pots

How to Freeze Fresh Arugula

If you’re looking to store your freshly picked arugula for a longer period of time, the best way to do so is to freeze it.

There are numerous methods that you can use, but the most practical one is to puree the arugula leaves with some water and pour the mixture into ice trays that you can freeze and use for up to 5-6 months.

If you want to store your arugula for even longer periods of time, the best method that allows that is to blanch and freeze the leaves in freezer bags.

This method is quite simple. All you need to do is blanch the leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds. Place them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process, then drain and pack them in freezer bags and place them in the freezer. Using this method, you can store your arugula leaves for up to a year.

Ready to Grow Your Own Fresh Arugula?

Now that you’ve gotten more familiar with the proper ways to harvest and store arugula, all that’s left to do is to plant some seeds and begin growing fresh arugula at home.

And if you want to make the process a lot easier, try one of our customizable roll-out gardens and build your dream garden today! Get started today!

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