In January, my annual seed-ordering frenzy commenced, and the promise of green, new life was enough to get me through the ensuing cold and rainy months. (Who am I kidding? I love the rain. But the vitamin D stores get low, you know.) One of the seed packets I was most excited to order was Enrico Rao arugula, purchased from the Seed Savers Exchange catalog. I was stoked on this particular variety for its story. An Italian American soldier fighting in World War I was stationed in Italy and had the chance to visit his family there. They shared seeds from their arugula plant, and he carried them across the sea and planted them in his garden, a bit of his heritage growing in American soil. Due to the vitally important work the folks at Seed Savers Exchange do, great grandchildren of seeds from that garden were to take root in my own. What a privilege!
They arrived. I planted them. Aaaaand a big fat nothing. Nothing sprouted.
Honestly, by the time they should have sprouted, the garden was producing so many other greens, it didn’t affect my mood much. I had the stringy but edible second-generation arugula that reseeded itself from last year. I had lettuce, kale, Asian greens. No big deal.
But the bounty of spring and summer and the harvest of fall don’t last forever. Most of the vegetable plants died over the last couple of months, and I have again become used to getting produce from the markets, enjoying the heartiness of root vegetables and crucifers and squash produced by my local farmers.
A couple of nights ago, though, I took something out to the compost bin, and my foot kicked a plant in the salad bed. With stunning immediacy, the peppery smell of fresh arugula hit me in the face. I bent down in the dark and grabbed the plant I figured I kicked, tore off a leaf, and bit into it. (Don’t try this at home unless you’re unhealthily familiar with your garden space.)
“Enrico! You’re here!” (Unhealthily familiar, I told you.)
I think if the two full and luscious arugula plants that have been growing over the last couple of weeks had done so earlier in the season, I would’ve been happy, but not necessarily delighted. But in these waning, dark days of fall, seeing and smelling and tasting brand new life is a gift I can fully appreciate.
So I chewed a bunch raw in the garden that night.
Then I served it alongside wine and homemade pizza with a simple shallot vinaigrette the next night.
Then I reprised that salad today for lunch, with the addition of tangerine segments and avocado.
And we’ll be eating it again tonight with pecans.
And my heart is simply happy.