If someone were to ask you to imagine what arugula looks like, you probably just imagine the leaves. Most people know this plant as the popular leafy green used in salads everywhere, after all.
You might not be aware that arugula can actually grow flowers, though. If you were to grow some in your garden, you might be surprised when your arugula starts to grow tiny, delicate white flowers.
So why does arugula flower like this? We’ll be explaining the life cycle of arugula to you here, and what purposes its flowers serve.
Quick Answer: Why Does Arugula Flower?
Arugula flowers when it reaches the end of its crop season. Usually, when it gets to that point, the leaves are considered a little too bitter for eating, but that’s a matter of personal preference.
If you’re looking for more information on what arugula tastes like, you can read our description of the flavor here.
The Life Cycle of Arugula
Like other vegetables, arugula starts as a seed that you need to sow in the soil in order to start the growing process. We’ve written about how to grow arugula in this short article if you’re interested in adding some to your own garden.
Once it’s properly sowed, it usually germinates within a few days. This is a speedy little plant, which might be at least part of the reason why it’s occasionally called rocket.
After germinating and sprouting above the soil, the growth continues to be fast. It’s ready to harvest and eat in as little as two or three weeks, but that depends on your preference. If you like milder flavors, then you’ll want to harvest it early.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you would like the strong, peppery taste arugula is known for, then you should wait a little longer to harvest it.
In 45 to 60 days, arugula will grow stalks that develop dainty cross-shaped flowers with burgundy streaks in the middle. By the time it reaches this stage in its life, its leaves will have developed a strong bitter flavor, so most experts advise you to harvest before the plant flowers.
The Best Times to Harvest Arugula
Time isn’t the biggest factor in deciding when to harvest. You can usually choose when to gather some of the leaves based on how large they are.
As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the leaves are, the greater the bitterness. Consequently, if you want a milder flavor and tender leaf, you should consider harvesting when they’re around 2-3 inches long.
Harvest the leaves when they’re a little larger than this if you’re looking for a stronger pepper flavor.
When you start seeing white flowers, it’s too late to harvest the plant, unless you can withstand the overwhelming bitterness the leaves get at that stage.
Can You Use the Flowers for Anything?
Yes, there are a couple good uses for arugula flowers. Even if the leaves might be a little too bitter by the time the flowers appear, the flowers themselves are edible.
Just like the leaves, the flowers have a spicy and peppery flavor. This makes them a particularly beautiful and delicious garnish.
However, they have uses beyond eating, too. You could always leave them in place in your garden to attract bees, which are extremely useful as pollinators.
You know that when arugula’s gorgeous little flowers appear, it’s near the end of its growing season. This doesn’t mean you should despair, though – the flowers can be eaten, and they can attract pollinating insects like bees.
The bottom line is, at all parts of its life cycle, arugula is an incredibly diverse and useful plant.