My go-to recipe
My potluck arugula salad is sprinkled with jewel-toned tropical pomegranate seeds. My neighbour Barbara is excited and quickly tells me how much she loves the bitter taste of arugula. So I tell her I grow arugula as a winter crop and now she is all ears.
Barbara also asks about the pomegranate seeds on top of the crisp, healthy, winter greens. She says she doesn’t know how to eat the bright red seeds. Just dig in – I tell her. And she falls in love at first bite.
Learning to grow a new crop
Like pomegranate to Barbara, arugula used to be an unknown to me. I didn’t know how to grow it or eat it. And before I started growing winter vegetables in my greenhouse, I barely knew the plant. I knew people used it in salads and I saw it at the store, but I also knew this mustard relative is buggy with flea-beetles in spring. Then it flowers quickly and goes to seed. It seemed like such a bother so I was late to the arugula fan club.
Now arugula is my go-to hardy winter green that thrives in my cool greenhouse. It comes in a variety of cultivars and all the seed catalogues include it. Best news of all? Once you buy the seed it is yours forever because whether sold as wild or tame, arugula happily re-seeds itself. Bugs are only a problem in spring and for carefree growing, I simply cover young plants in spring with fine mesh cloth (proteknet or lightweight agribon) and the insects stay away.
When you buy things like arugula at the store you just never get to know the ins and outs of growing the plant or when it’s in season. It always seems to be available. Once you grow arugula and discover that the spring crop goes to seed in July, for instance, you might consider pulling the plants and tossing them in the compost.
But if you let the seed mature and fall to the ground, they germinate quickly. And by late August arugula sprouts are all over the greenhouse and now, in December, I am serving the small bitter leaves with sweet pomegranate seed at pot-luck parties!
But this pomegranate-arugula salad combo is a short-season affair because pomegranates will go out of season in January and disappear from the shops for another year.
Luckily, arugula is in season for me all winter and I only wish I had learned about it earlier in my culinary life. It grows easily in the greenhouse, the flowers are pretty and edible, and it combines well with other flavours. I love it in salads but also as a topping on pizza.
I only recently discovered my new neighbor Barbara and her long-standing love of arugula. Happily, the winter season is young and I hope there will be more potlucks and happy exchanges of a garden and culinary nature this winter.
More from Donna
For more great tips from Donna, visit www.donnabalzer.com.
You can also read Donna’s gardening books: No Guff Vegetable Gardening with Steven Biggs and her just released Gardener’s Gratitude Journal: Part Diary, Part Personal Growing Guide.