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Arugula: Sylvetta vs. Rocket

For so many years, arugula has been a staple in the garden.  It’s a fantastic addition to salads (grown right next to mustard greens and lettuces, it adds amazing texture to the garden as well), and can be cooked into pasta dishes, thrown on sandwiches or served as a garnish for Italian dishes.

This year, our regular arugula plants are getting some competition.  We’ve always grown arugula (A.K.A. rocket salad, rocket arugula, eruca sativa), but ever since a visit to Italy where we ate an entire salad made from Wild arugula (A.K.A. Sylvetta or rustic), we’ve been dying to add it to our garden.  This year the waiting comes to an end.

Tiny wild arugula sprout getting a start in the garden

The first thing you’ll notice when growing rustic arugula is that it doesn’t sprout nearly as quickly as rocket, or regular, arugula.  It took about 14 days for our seeds to sprout, instead of the three days that its more conservative sibling took.

As it grows wild arugula’s leaves look different.  They are thinner and more jagged. The color is noticeably darker as well.

The cotyledons and first set of leaves look more like regular arugula, but the second set of true leaves show that this arugula is marching to its own drummer.

Rocket arugula germinates in three days and produces prolifically in a very short time. The leaves are more round and broad than its wild counterpart.

As memories take me back to Italy, the most delicious meal was made from fresh mozzarella (we were in Naples, the birthplace of mozzarella), fresh tomatoes and a bowl full of wild arugula.  It was the peppery-ist salad I’ve even had, and yet I couldn’t stop eating it.

As for care, wild arugula can be planted right next to rocket arugula, as they share similar watering requirements.  If you are planning to save seeds though, I would separate them to preserve genetic integrity.

What to do with wild arugula?  Here are a few ideas:

Wild Arugula Salad with Garlic Croutons and Shaved Parmesan

Wild Arugula and Tomato Risotto

And even if you don’t like the sound of this one, look at the website for beautiful pictures:

Wild Arugula and Quinoa Salad with Cherries

Do you have a favorite dish to make with wild arugula, or any arugula for that matter?  Share it with us here.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Anthony Grasso

    Can Sylvetta be grown indoors?

    1. Christy

      With enough light and proper watering, you can grow arugula (sylvetta) indoors. If it gets leggy, that is a sign that it is not getting enough light. Consider a grow light or other supplemental lighting if that’s the case.

  2. Dawn

    Have you found it to be invasive? I think previous tenants might have grown some in our garden, and it takes up at least a quarter of the garden now, and I’m constantly having to weed it back.

    1. Christy

      Wild arugula is very apt to repopulate on it’s own, and even standard arugula will volunteer all over the place if left to go to seed. Wild arugula sends up flowers a lot sooner, so it’s harder to keep it in check. If you can cut off the flowers that will keep it from spreading seed, then you won’t have as much popping up all over the place.

  3. Michelle Bahr

    Good morning
    I love arugula by chance do you know where I can buy a seed that is mild arugula and not so peppery?

    1. Christy

      Generally speaking it’s not the variety but how it’s grown and when it’s harvested that determines how bitter/peppery it is. That said, the wild arugula types are generally more potent than the common types. Some seed companies call the wild types “Syvetta” but I’ve seen at least 1 seed company list the common type with that name as well. The shape gives it away: if it has pinnate leaves (pointy/spiky shape) then it is wild arugula. If it has rounded tips it is a common type or possibly a hybrid of the two. Johnny’s Seeds and others offer a type called Astro that is said to be milder.

      The trick is to pick them young. I don’t know about you, but I only grow 4 plants and that’s an overabundance of arugula. After they grow longer than 5 inches, I remove the stems to make them less punchy in a salad. I hope this helps!

  4. Abe

    Where I can purchase the seeds of wild arugula? Thanks

    1. Christy

      Hi Abe, you can find wild arugula seeds online at seed companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: , High Mowing Seeds: , and any place that sells Botanical Interests Seeds (like Armstrong Garden Centers and Anawalt Lumber locally:

  5. Jane Zeni

    Thanks for a clear, informative article about growing these tasty greens. Re the distinction between wild and garden rocket, another I’ve read is that garden Arugula has white flowers, while what I now see is my wild sylvetta (Diplotaxis) has tiny yellow flowers. It’s spicy, but we enjoy mixing it with leaf lettuce and spinach — all 3 grow well in my “kitchen garden” in St. Louis.

    1. Christy

      Great observation. The wild arugula also re-seeds itself more vigorously than regular arugula. Plant once, have it forever. Have fun growing it this season!

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