The Best Method For Harvesting Arugula

Arugula adds a refreshing, zesty taste to salads, burgers, and an array of culinary dishes. Some may even say it makes the taste buds rocket. Whether you possess a green thumb or just have a passion for good food, arugula, the crowning jewel among leafy greens, is an exceptional choice for cultivating in your own garden or raised bed. It is resilient and grows fast, making it easy to care for and thrive.

This herbaceous green can reward you with an abundant yield within a few simple weeks of planting. But since it doesn't stay fresh for long once picked, you need to time your harvest based on when you plan to use it. You can decide if it's better to pinch or cut the greens depending on your needs. Following the recommended method will let you enjoy its tasty flavor and nutritional benefits while also ensuring the plant keeps growing for more harvests in the future. Now, let's dig in and explore the best method for harvesting arugula.

Selective versus full-cut

When it comes to harvesting arugula, there are two popular approaches to ensure a continuous supply of fresh and tender leaves – the selective or full-cut approach. The selective leaf or pinching method is ideal if you want a steady stream of arugula over an extended period. Once the arugula reaches a suitable height of around 4 to 6 inches, pinch off or cut the outer leaves at the base, leaving the inner, smaller leaves and central stem untouched. This allows the plant to keep growing and produce new leaves over time. Plus, this technique also lets the arugula flower so that you can gather nutritious seeds for future use.

On the other hand, if you desire a larger quantity of arugula all at once, the full-cut approach is your best bet. This method involves making a clean and precise cut across the entire plant, just above the soil level. Whole cuts of the plant are particularly effective when harvesting baby arugula, given it should only be grown to a maximum height of 2 to 3 inches. The full-cut approach does not harm the plant and even helps promote new growth, allowing you to cut and come again.

Maximizing the freshness

Irrespective of the method, timing is everything when harvesting this fast-growing plant. In order to obtain the highest quality greens, it is essential to steer clear of gathering the herb in direct sunlight. The sun and heat can cause the leaves to wither rapidly. Avoiding wet weather is equally important, as harvesting arugula when it is damp can result in limp, soggy foliage. The optimal time for harvest is during the coolest and driest period of the day when the greens are at their peak freshness.

After you have harvested the greens, the storage method chosen will also impact their ability to remain fresh. If you plan to use the arugula within a day or two, wash the leaves thoroughly by running them under cold water and removing any excess moisture using a salad spinner or a clean kitchen towel. However, for longer-term storage, it is best to wait to wash the arugula until you are ready to consume it. Store the arugula in a cloth or plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator crisper drawer, where it can stay fresh for up to five days.