Monday, December 3, 2012

Arugula: Harvesting and Saving Seeds

When I moved into my current house, I noticed there was a big patch of leafy green stuff that I assumed were weeds growing next to the shed where we keep our bikes. One day, I noticed one of the girls in her pajamas with a bowl and some boots hunched over this patch of "weeds". Upon her return to the kitchen, I asked her what she was doing... lo and behold, there is a mini salad garden in front of the shed back there! 
Meet arugula. I started doing some research and discovered that you can save the seeds from arugula and propagate them next year. They last up to four years if harvested correctly and provide a healthy, slightly spicy and sometimes bitter taste to the dish you add it to. I am a huge fan of eating a bed of arugula with my egg sandwiches in the morning, usually with a little bit of hummus or cheese from the food bank depending on the week. 
Look at how beautiful it is! Do you see those skinny little bods on the right hand side of the photo? Those are the arugula seed pods. These ones are too green to harvest but I waited very patiently until the time came. 
In the meantime, I enjoyed the pretty flowers that they produced and the yummy leaves in my breakfast. 
Finally, this afternoon I went outside to collect some of the pods. I'll share with you more about what I found during my research, but I learned some things that might be helpful for anyone else wanting to harvest arugula. 
1. The seeds are tiny! Make sure you have a work surface that is clean and clear, somewhere you will be able to find the little seeds that you will probably drop. I was doing this over my carpet and guess what? That's right, I lost a few seeds because of my lack of foresight. 
2. The seeds need to dry out on the plant because once the pods are plucked, they do not continue to dry out. The pod on the left is the right color and produced seeds that were dark to light brown and were very easy to open (in fact, they broke open very easily which is part of why arugula can be a little tricky to harvest. You have to let them dry enough on the stem but you can't let them wait otherwise the pod gets too dry and bursts open). The pod on the right is too green and the seeds inside were also green. 

3. The seeds from the photo above are from about 10-15 pods. I will continue to report back about my findings next year when it is time to grow them again (I'll make sure to keep documenting my progress for those of you that are interested). I'm going to let them sit in the bowl for a couple days just to ensure there is no moisture on the seeds and then I'll make a little envelope out of a brown paper bag. I have no idea how many plants these seeds will produce. It's definitely going to be a learning experience for me!

Finally, if you'd like the resources that I found, click on the links below. Do you save any seeds?
Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook
Seed Saving by growingyourgreens

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