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Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs
Growing & Selling
                Fresh-Cut Herbs
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Author Bio Biographical statement from the author of Growing and Selling Fresh Cut Herbs.

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Growing and Selling
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Herb of the Month


Eruca vesicaria sativa

8" to 12"

     Long a popular herb in Europe, arugula is gaining popularity in the United States as a gourmet salad herb. People either love arugula or hate it for it has a pungent aroma and a peppery taste. Although it is used mainly as a salad herb adventurous chefs and cooks use it in everything from sauces to stir-fry.
    There are several varieties of arugula available. The small leaf types are sometimes known as "wild" types. A new variety is called "strap leaf" because it has a narrow base, which makes it easier to bunch. Perhaps the biggest seller is regular arugula.
     Arugula is easy to grow from seed but it should be direct sown where it is to grow, as it does not transplant easily. It is a cool weather crop-as I write this it is November 30, 1999 and my arugula beds are flourishing with the cold Minnesota temperatures! It can be difficult to grow when summer temperatures soar. It has a tendency to flower and turn bitter quickly during warm temperatures. Planting a summer crop in a partially shaded location can help to keep it cool and prolong the harvest period somewhat.
     Arugula seeds can be planted thickly, much like loose-leaf lettuce, but if you space them 4 to 6 inches apart the leaves on the plants will grow larger. Harvest the leaves by pulling them from the base of the plant. The leaves can be cut, of course, but when the new leaves grow some may have the browned cut edge from the previous cutting. This will make them unattractive and useless for those that sell fresh-cut herbs.
     Flea beetles love arugula! These are small, shiny insects that eat shotgun type holes in the leaves. These holes are probably not a problem for the home gardener who grows arugula for their own use. The cosmetic damage caused by feeding flea beetles results in unusable foliage for the commercial grower. The best defense against flea beetles is to cover the arugula with lightweight row covers. Place the covers as soon as the seeds begin to germinate and the tiny plants begin to emerge from the soil. Bury the edges of the cover in the soil to prevent the beetles from crawling underneath it.
     Arugula is covered in more detail in Chapter 14 of Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs.
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