Last winter, rushing to beat a mighty snowstorm that laid waste to most of my yard, we fashioned a makeshift cover for my still-thriving greens garden. We drove old tent stakes into the ground, connected those with PVC pipe, then draped sheets of thick plastic and layers of moving blankets on top of the whole thing. You get the picture: pretty, it was not.
But after enduring the sight of the clumsy thing for four long months, I pulled the top off. Underneath was a small sea of emerald green, like gemstones scattered across the dirt. My tiny farm of arugula had endured the winter, in spite of months of freezing temperatures and heavy snows.
I later learned that in most parts of the country, arugula will survive the winter, so long as it’s protected from extended periods of below-freezing temperatures and the weight of heavy snows that will break its tender stems. And it’s a fine choice of greens to grow in abundance: like broccoli and cauliflower, it’s a cruciferous vegetable, but easier to grow and more versatile than others. And like all crucifers, it contains healing compounds that protect against cancer and have anti-inflammatory properties in the body.
Next fall, with some preparation and help from the experts, we’ll make an adequate cover — one that doesn’t reveal my lack of expertise and experience. This year, we’re feeling pretty smug about having a full crop of greens in March. Here’s what we did with them:
Arugula, Sugar Snap and Green Pea Salad with Basil-Mint Dressing
Peas and mint are the stars in this recipe, and their sweet and aromatic flavors complement the arugula’s spicy tang. Swap baby spinach leaves for half of the arugula for a milder backdrop to the other ingredients, or toss in chopped leaf lettuce.
6 cups baby arugula leaves
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons minced basil leaves
1 tablespoon minced mint leaves
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed to room temperature
3 cups baby arugula leaves or baby spinach leaves
- Boil one inch of water in a medium pot with a steamer basket. Steam sugar snaps for 3 to 4 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove from heat and spread on a plate to cool.
- While peas are steaming, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, basil and mint together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- Combine cooled sugar snaps with arugula and green peas in a large bowl. Add dressing, and toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, divide salad between individual plates, and serve immediately.