By harvesting arugula the right way, you can ensure a continual harvest throughout the spring or fall. But to keep your plants healthy and producing well, you have to harvest at the right time, using the right technique.
If you do, you can get over a dozen harvests in before the plant bolts!
In this article, we will show you how to harvest arugula so it keeps growing back and give you some tips for harvesting arugula microgreens and seeds so you can enjoy this zesty green over and over again.
How Do You Know When To Harvest Arugula?
Like many lettuce-type crops, arugula can be harvested in two forms: baby and mature.
Immature arugula leaves can be pulled from the plant as soon as they reach 2 inches in length. These “baby” leaves have a smoother, less intense flavor, making them the preferred form for salads. As long as the plant has three or more rows of leaves, harvesting can begin.
For mature arugula, you will want to wait until the plant gets a bit bigger with leaves over 3 inches long.
How to Harvest Arugula So It Grows Back
The key to harvesting arugula so that it continues to grow and allow for future harvests is to only take about ⅓ of the plant at a time.
Start by harvesting your first round of baby arugula once the plant has three rows of leaves and the outer leaves are about 2 inches long. Cut the outer leaves at the base by pinching them with your fingernails or cutting them with scissors. As soon as the next row of leaves begins to emerge, you can harvest the outer row once again.
As the plants mature, you can begin to harvest a larger number of leaves at once. Pinch or cut the outermost leaves taking no more than ⅓ of the total leaves at each harvest.
How Many Times Can You Harvest Arugula?
Arugula is a fast-growing crop that continues to grow until the weather gets too warm or too cold. By only harvesting ⅓ of the plant at a time and waiting about a week in between harvests, you can ensure the plant stays healthy and continues to produce.
In the right climate, you’ll have the opportunity to harvest your arugula over a dozen times before the plant becomes too bitter during bolting or dies back due to the cold.
How To Harvest Arugula Microgreens
Arugula microgreens, or sprouts, make a great zesty addition to sandwiches, burgers, salads, and more. Plus, they are super easy and quick to grow, even during the dead of winter.
You can grow arugula microgreens in a pot with dirt, but it is easier to harvest them if you use a special microgreen growing tray. To start, simply spread your arugula seeds across the bottom of the tray, soak them for about 30 minutes, drain, then add water to the bottom of the tray below where the seeds are sitting. Put the lid on and wait a day or two for the seeds to begin to sprout.
Once the sprouts reach about an inch or two high, you can begin your harvest.
Cut the sprouts in clumps by snipping them just above the root. You can harvest all of the sprouts at once and store them in a moist paper towel in the refrigerator for a few days. Or you can harvest them a few clumps at a time over the course of about a week.
What To Do When Arugula Flowers?
Once a mature arugula plant begins to bolt, or starts to form a flower stalk, the leaves will take on a woody texture and an unappealing bitter taste. While you can still eat them, most people stop harvesting at this point.
If you plan to harvest seeds from your plants, keep caring for them as you were before until the flowers have formed and dried. If you do not plan to harvest seeds, then it is time to pull the plants and replace them with a warm-season crop such as bush beans or zucchini.
In most climates, you can plant another round of arugula late in the summer for multiple fall harvests.
How To Harvest Arugula Seeds
Arugula seeds form in long pods that resemble tiny green beans. These pods will begin to form after the flowers have dropped away once the weather has grown hot. Allow your arugula plants to sit undisturbed until the flower stalks and pods turn yellow and dry out.
To test if the plant is ready for harvest, grab the dried stalk and shake it. If the seeds are ready, you will hear a sound similar to a rainstick as they rattle around inside the dried pods.
Once you hear this sound, cut the stalks below the lowest pod and carefully bring them over to a prepared space away from the garden to harvest. Each stalk will produce hundreds of seeds, so collecting them one at a time is not the way to go. Instead, hold the stalks over a large colander with a bowl beneath it and rub them vigorously between your hands.
This will open the seed pods, allowing the seeds and other loosened debris to fall into the colander. The tiny seeds will roll through the holes into your bowl while the rest of the plant material gets left behind.
Store the seeds in a paper envelope in a dark, cool space to sow the following fall or spring for a never-ending supply of zesty, homegrown arugula.
About the Author
Sara Seitz is a freelance writer and avid gardener brought up by generations of women with green thumbs. She loves the challenge of growing a variety of vegetables and incorporating them into her cooking. If Sara’s not on her computer, she’s out in the garden teaching her daughter the joys of playing in the dirt. More articles by Sara.