Spring is here in Hull and I have been opening up the cold frames to pick greens. Katy and I have had a few salads of lettuce, spinach, and turnip greens that were planted in October, arugula thinnings planted in November and radish, beet and lettuce thinnings planted in late February or early March. Those salads are delicious and precious as they take almost an hour to pick and contain 100’s of individual plants.
The most common of those plants in the salad are tiny arugula plants. The arugula in the garden just comes.
Arugula has special meaning for me. A neighborhood boy calls me Arugula Ted. Several times a year I host an open water swim called the Arugula Swim and Potluck. In May and June I harvest trash bags full of arugula and work hard to give it away.
This arugula, which I love, is the wild pointy tipped type that has deep tap roots and often overwinters here in Hull. These plants came to me almost by chance as I bought one packet of seeds over 20 years ago from Johnny’s Seeds. I didn’t think much about them or even really think about what I was planting. Every year since it has come back. What made that planting 20 plus years ago magical and surprising were that the plants were identical or nearly identical to the “ruchetta” my parents brought back from Rome in the summer of 1965.
We returned that summer of 1965 early from Rome because my mother had breast cancer and my brother and I were sent to live with family in Memphis Tennessee. My father and mother and younger sister went home to live in Woodbridge Connecticut where my father took care of my younger sister and my mother recovered. Later I asked my mom if she was worried that summer about dying from the cancer, and she calmly said no. She had three children under five and she felt there was no way she would not be there for us. I find it so interesting that in the summer of 1965 those seeds traveled with them and then persisted for the next thirty plus years in their yards. But that is arugula or as it is named in the Roman dialect “ruchetta,” it just comes.
Even though I know the arugula will come, I push it a bit by throwing seed stalks on the ground in November and put a cold frame on top. This will make a solid rectangle of green in April and May but to get to that there is a lot of thinning that needs to happen. As simple as this technique is it may be the only invention I have made in the garden, certainly I did not learn it directly from anyone else or from reading any book or article, and so I take great pride in this arugula planting.
I hope you can get out in the beautiful spring air and not just feel the warmth of the sun but the feel of dirt on your hands and the sense that the work that you do now will feed you later. May that food be literal food from your garden or figurative food for you souls, and may the work you do now be honored in the months to come.
Thinning and weeding are joys for me and I hope you join Carrot Day and the joy of the garden.
Don’t forget to order your free carrot seeds. There are still plenty left and I will be sending them your way soon.
Please use this form to order your FREE Carrot Seeds. I can’t wait to send them to you.