Arugula belongs to the same family as other cruciferous greens, like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Its distinct flavor makes it a staple in many French, Italian, Mediterranean dishes.
Are you thinking of growing this nutritious salad green? Aside from planting and growing techniques, you’ll also want to learn when to harvest arugula.
When to harvest arugula? With an impressive amount of folate, iron, potassium, and phosphorus, it is a welcome addition to any vegetable garden. You’ll know they are ready for harvest in about 40 days after seeding.
How Do You Know When Your Arugula Is Ready to Harvest?
If you wish to grow arugula, you’ll want to plant them in a spot where they get full sun or partial shade.
They like the cool season and will grow best in spring or autumn or when temperatures range between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Given the right conditions, you can begin harvesting the leaves in about four to six weeks.
You will know they are ready to harvest when the plant grows about six inches tall.
Around this time, you’ll want to pick the outer leaves to encourage the plant to grow more leaves.
Large arugula leaves have a mustard-like, peppery flavor that will add an almost spicy twist to any salad.
Aside from using them as a salad base, you can add arugula to soups or sauté them as you would cook spinach.
If you’re not a fan of its spicy flavor and prefer a milder taste, you can harvest the smaller young leaves instead.
Smaller arugula leaves that are two to three inches long have a milder taste, making them perfect for salads and garnishes.
How To Harvest Arugula?
Once you’re sure that they are ready for picking, you can go ahead and prepare for harvesting.
You’ll be thrilled to know that harvesting the leaves of arugula only requires you to follow three simple steps:
Step 1: Ready your tools.
Regardless if you’re using your bare hands, a serrated knife, or a pair of garden shears, you’ll find no problems picking off arugula.
When using tools, make sure that you wash them clean before and after harvesting arugula leaves.
It will also help if you sharpen them beforehand for a clean and easy cut, as well as to avoid unnecessarily damaging the plant.
Step 2: Pinch arugula where it meets with the stem.
When picking arugula, you will want to pinch the leaves off where they connect to the stem.
And since they are an annual plant, you can expect them to continue growing after cutting off the outer leaves.
It is up to you to decide whether to harvest the whole plant or just the leaves.
Picking only a third or a fourth of the plant means new arugula leaves will grow in its place.
In fact, it will encourage the plant to thrive and grow even more.
As a result, you will have a steady supply of fresh arugula for weeks to come.
Step 3: Harvest before they bloom.
It is very important to harvest arugula before it forms its white flowers.
If you fail to do this, you will end up with bitter-tasting leaves.
Alternatively, you can also pick the flowers instead because they are also edible.
They have an interesting flavor profile that is quite similar to the leaves, so you can use them to spice up your salads.
Even better, they will make your dish more colorful too!
Like the leaves, arugula flowers also pack plenty of vitamins and minerals.
However, keep in mind that you will lose their delicate texture and unique flavor if you decide to cook them.
Step 4: Clean and store them properly for future consumption.
You can have arugula for breakfast, lunch, and dinner yet still end up with too much.
Instead of leaving them out to wilt and go bad, you can actually store arugula for future use.
Before doing anything, you’ll want to rinse them clean under running water to wash off the dirt.
A colander will work really well for this purpose. Better yet, use a salad spinner.
Next, grab a couple of paper towels and blot the leaves until they’re almost dry.
You’ll then want to wrap the leaves in clean paper towels, stacking them on top of each other.
Place them in a clean plastic bag, but make sure you bore holes in it to prevent moisture buildup.
Lastly, toss in your fridge’s crisper drawer.
Following this storage method will keep them fresh for about 10 days.
However, for the best flavor, you might want to use them within the first three to six days.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Arugula?
Arugula plants are fast-growing and will reach maturity as quickly as 45 to 60 days.
Some even take only 30 days, especially when planted in early spring.
Make sure you use well-draining, fertile soil and pick a spot in your vegetable garden that experiences full sun.
More often than not, you will end up with too many arugula leaves you can consume before they go bad.
As mentioned, you can opt to harvest a fourth or a third of the whole plant material to prolong the harvest.
But what will happen if you don’t harvest them?
As the weather changes and temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit for consecutive days, your arugula plants will stop producing leaves.
Instead, you will notice flowers forming, which will cause the leaves to take on a bitter taste.
You can delay this process by pinching off the outer leaves when daytime temperatures reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Many Times Can You Harvest Arugula Per Year?
If you time the planting right, you can expect to have two harvest seasons.
It will be ready for picking in as early as spring to early summer, and you’ll have another batch from late summer to fall.
Again, they are a cold-season vegetable, so you won’t be seeing much growth during the hot days of midsummer.
For the best results, plant arugula in spring right when the soil thaws and becomes workable.
This schedule applies to vegetable gardens in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 6.
If you live in Zones 7 to 11, an early spring planting will result in a late spring crop.
For a fall harvest, plant them before the summer ends.
Can You Harvest Arugula After It Has Bloomed?
Arugula will grow tall, bloom, and start seeding in hot weather, similar to other leafy salad greens.
The stalks can grow as tall as 24 to 36 inches and produce white blooms.
While still edible at this stage, you might find that the leaves will begin tasting a little too strong for your liking.
Again, you can try cutting a good chunk of the plant material to try and increase your yield.
However, this stage usually signals the cool season is ending and that you can now replace them with a warm-season crop.
Alternatively, you can leave some stalks in and allow the flowers to bloom completely.
Doing so will attract pollinators to your vegetable gardens, like hummingbirds and bees.
You will soon notice seed pods forming after the flowers are done blooming.
Wait for them to brown and dry, and you’ll have pods containing seeds you can plant once the next growing season comes.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Arugula?
Often, only those with an adventurous palate will most likely enjoy arugula.
Yet even if you don’t particularly enjoy the taste, perhaps their many health benefits will encourage you to add them to your diet.
Eating arugula will give you the following benefits:
1. Improved eye health
Arugula contains beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein.
Together, they protect the eyes from free radicals, UV rays, and high-intensity lights.
2. Better weight management
Trying to find a low-calorie, low-carb, and high-fiber ingredient you can eat every day?
Look no further than this dark salad green. A 100-gram portion only has 25 calories and 3.7 grams of carbs.
Since they are high in fiber, they also support better digestion.
3. Healthier heart
When it comes to heart-friendly nutrients, you’ll find a whole host of them in arugula leaves.
They contain the perfect combination of folate, vitamin K, and vitamin C.
Even better, with a stronger and healthier heart comes better blood pressure control.
4. Stronger bones
Together with vitamin K, the calcium content of arugula helps keep bones healthy and strong.
It is for this reason that osteoporosis patients and those suffering from bone injuries should eat arugula regularly.
5. Better skin
Arugula is packed with anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants, which both promote healthier skin.
By adding it to your diet, you will have enhanced protection against UV rays.
Unlike its cousins in the cruciferous family, arugula leaves have a spicy taste with nutty undertones.
If you’ve fallen in love with its unique flavor profile, you’ll find that there’s no better way to enjoy it than growing some in your garden.
The good thing about taking on this challenge is that growing arugula is quick and easy.
They will thrive in cool weather, but you can also grow them as a winter crop if you live in a warmer climate.