Ode to Arugula and Arugula Pesto

container vegetable garden

“Arugula. I haven’t had arugula in six weeks.” – My Blue Heaven

My garden is generally a giver— it’s really incredible how such a small area can produce so much abundance for a family of four.

However, I recently swapped out my unsightly netting and stakes (our defense against bird and bunnies) for some pinwheels. I heard that if you place a bunch of pinwheels around your garden with the metallic reflection facing inside the birds won’t go anywhere near your precious produce. A neon blue plastic is a little, let’s say whimsical for my taste, but those nets and stakes were hard to maneuver around and whimsical is better that plain ugly, right?

Photo by Erin Feinblatt

Well, those flashy pinwheels didn’t work without the help of a small factor called wind. Where are those Santa Barbara coastal breezes when you need ‘em?  The result was a crappy December harvest with all my newly plated seedlings engorged by the birds and bunnies.

I actually had to buy arugula for the first time in years. Even from the farmers market, it just doesn’t taste the same. Wild arugula from your garden has a much spicier flavor— it instantly spiffs up any sandwich, appetizer, pesto, or side salad.

I reverted back to my old, less glittery methods of protecting my garden. It may not be pretty, but it does mean I’m harvesting again.  The season of being arugula-less made me realize what an important staple it is in my garden and kitchen. If you are going to grow a vegetables or herbs (even in a container) the first thing I would recommend planting is arugula.  Arugula is easy to grow (minus the bird attacks), easy to harvest (just a little snip with your kitchen shears) and then after you cut it, it comes up again. In California, it grows like crazy year around.

garden pesto

Ode to Arugula and Arugula Pesto

Arugula Pesto

This is one of my favorite recipes featuring my beloved arugula.

4 cups packed arugula

1 cup Parmesan cheese; cut in cubes

Zest and juice of one Meyer lemon (a regular lemon will do if you can’t get your hands on a Meyer)

Two cloves of garlic

½ cup olive oil


Put all the ingredients in the food processor or blender. Taste to adjust seasoning. Use as a dip for fresh veggies and it is great for pasta, too.

Here are some planting tips if  you’re interested in growing your own arugula:

container vegetable garden

This is the method my garden-guru, Pat, taught me for planting arugula in pots from seeds. You can easily plant seedlings and have and instant vegetable garden, but for arugula I prefer to plant from seeds because then you can cut them super early for tasty micro greens.

Fill any container with a drainage hole in the bottom, then add about 2 inches of stones or pebbles and then top with organic potting soil. Then be sure to really soak the soil, you’re not going to water for two days so be sure to get the soil nice and saturated.

Now, using a knife, scrape the top of the soil to loosen up the top layer and sprinkle an even amount of seeds over the soil. Gently pat down the soil with your hands. Then, about two days later, give it a sprinkle of water and you are on your way to homegrown arugula.