Home Home & Garden Wild Arugula – A Sacred Weed

Wild Arugula – A Sacred Weed

Wild Arugula-gardening-tips-gem-of-the-sound-burien-news
Wild Arugula-gardening-tips-gem-of-the-sound-burien-news

By Beth Barrett.

Meandering through the many produce booths at the West Seattle Farmers Market several years ago, my husband abruptly halted at a stall full of young vegetable and flower “starts”. “Look,” he exclaimed, pointing to some small plants in the far corner, “wild arugula starts. Let’s get them!” Somewhat dubious, I consented to the purchase, and we brought home three plants in four-inch pots, transplanting them into our spring vegetable garden.

Those little starts have now spread themselves with carefree abandonment. Happily, and might I add, wildly, they have made themselves quite at home in our garden, thriving and filling any vacancy. I even discovered those sturdy greens reseeding between cracks in our cement garden steps. A prolific green with mustard-like yellow flowers, these volunteer plants have now multiplied beyond my imagination. They have been “gifted” to family and shared with many friends.

Despite their capacity to invade, I have grown a deep respect for this “sacred weed,” as my friend Keith calls it. Tenacious, they recur every damp and cool spring providing copious amounts of peppery-flavored salad greens all summer long. Native to the Mediterranean region and southern Europe, arugula has been consumed since ancient times.

We toss them with grated Pecorino cheese and walnuts. Usually, we mix up a dressing with a ratio of 2/3 olive oil to 1/3 honey dressing. But, it all depends on the maturity of the leaves—baby arugula has a milder flavor, while older leaves have a spicy, mustardy flavor.

Versatile, the deeply-lobed dark greens can be used to make pesto as a pizza topping (in Italy, they are topped raw at the end of baking) or stuffed into sandwiches.

Nutritionally low in calories, these humble greens are high in vitamin K and folate. Arugula is also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and the dietary minerals calcium, magnesium, and manganese.

A member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes broccoli, kale, and cabbage, arugula is a cruciferous vegetable. The cabbage family plants are cruciferous (from Latin crux, cruc- ‘cross’ + -fer ‘bearing’) because the flowers have four equal petals arranged crosswise. They are sacred indeed.

Our beneficial “weed,”  (it all depends on your context of what is desirable), has established itself as a highly valued member of our family garden. My admiration for its annual production and reliability continues to grow. I am no longer a skeptic — Long live this sacred weed!

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