I just had an accidental success with growing greens, arugula to be exact, and I’m quite pleased. It also turned out to be the most perfect succession planting experience I’ve ever had.
Back when I planted my snow peas nice and early this year in March, I figured I should grow a few other things in that bed until it was time for me to plant green beans there. So I grabbed a couple packets of seeds left over from last year: one was Lollo Rossa lettuce and the other was arugula. There were fewer of the lettuce seeds, so I sprinkled them at the front edge of the bed, and I also popped in a few onion sets there. Then I planted the arugula seeds along the long edge of the bed across from the snow peas. I had no idea how well these seeds would germinate, so I finished off the whole package. Last year I had just sprinkled some in with my lettuce seeds and used the leaves a few at a time in my mixed lettuce salads.
A couple months later I was rewarded with the biggest nicest crop of greens I’ve ever had! I’ve never really grown any green besides spinach on its own before. And I quite agree with a friend who just posted that spinach hardly seems worth the work and space for how little return you get on this short seasoned crop. The timing of the arugula season worked out perfectly for me, however, because it began to bolt just as I was getting ready to plant those green beans I’d wanted to put in that bed.
In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying a tasty new salad. Since I had volunteered to bring a salad to a friend’s home for dinner, I checked online to see if I could get away with substituting the arugula for spinach in my favorite spinach salad recipe. However, I came across this even better recipe to use instead. Now “I made a few changes” as those reviewers on cooking websites say, but nothing very significant. And of course I topped it with more of those big beautiful chive blossoms that had made my Chive-Tarragon Deviled Eggs look fabulous the day before. I added some Bachelors Buttons, too, when I made the salad again a few days later for a master gardeners’ potluck meeting. (I just love edible flowers! They’re my signature touch.) Below is the recipe with my changes noted. I used larger proportions because I had more people to serve, and I like big salads. Also I wanted to keep some extra dressing in a bottle for making future salads instead of mixing it up every time.
Arugula Salad with Almonds and Parmesan
- 1⁄3 C toasted natural almonds [I used salted oven-roasted whole almonds.]
- 3 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice [I used key lime juice as I often substitute lime juice for lemon juice, and lately I’ve been enjoying key limes instead of the bigger Persian limes usually sold in the U.S.A.]
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Coarse salt and ground pepper [I used a salt-free blend of season, Penzey’s Mural of Flavor.]
- 1 bunch arugula (1⁄2 lb), trimmed
- 1⁄3 C shaved Parmesan (1 oz), plus more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard [This was my own addition since I learned from a Cooking with Herbs talk given by Deb Terrill that mustard helps keep oil and vinegar dressings emulsified and Dijon does not really alter the flavor of the dressing.]
In a large bowl, combine almonds, oil, lemon juice and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. [I blended the dressing ingredients in a small blender, and then I bottled most of it.] Add arugula and Parmesan and toss to coat. Serve topped with more Parmesan.
This salad is delicious! The balsamic and citrus dressing is a perfect compliment to the nutty flavor of the arugula. And yes, I would describe arugula’s flavor as nutty rather than bitter. Perhaps the often used term “bitter greens” is one reason I had not considered growing greens before. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I’ve begun.
Meanwhile, I’ve been looking for other ways to use arugula, and I see there are several good sounding pasta recipes out there. Here is one that I tried last night: Linquine with Shrimp, Arugula, and Lemon Olive Oil. I picked this recipe because it would finally give me a chance to use the bottled lemon olive oil I had bought at the farmers market a couple weeks ago. I still did not use the whole half cup called for by Giada De Laurentiis. Nevertheless, this dish came out too lemony tasting. I think all that fresh lemon juice (or key lime juice in my case) washed away the delicious garlic and shallots that I had sauteed with the shrimp. So next time I will skip the lemon juice just let the lemon olive oil and some zest flavor it plus some of my lemony herbs, lemon thyme and lemon balm. Also, I will wilt the arugula a bit by putting it in the colander before I drain the linguini there.
I had to pull up and harvest all the arugula yesterday as it was beginning to bolt. I’m quite pleased with the timing, however, as it’s time to plant green beans in that bed now. Like I said earlier, this was the most perfect succession planting experience I’ve ever had. And now that I have four plastic shopping bags full of arugula sitting in my refrigerator, I’m glad that I’m finding ways to use it cooked so that I’ll be able to use all of it, not just what we will consume fresh in salads over the next week. I’ll have to get busy today and blanch and freeze at least half of what I have. I did see a post about canning greens a little while ago, but that did not sound at ALL appealing to me. Once the arugula is blanched and vacuum sealed by my trusty FoodSaver machine, it will not take up much room at all in the freezer. So why go through all the work of canning it?
And now I’m looking forward to planting more arugula, or perhaps another green or two, in the fall!