Unusual Elements: Arugula Arrangement

We usually say something's "gone to seed" like it's a bad thing- but it's often when things start to get interesting. I love arugula and could happily eat a pound of it every day, but I had no idea it would produce such delicate and lovely seed pods. "Rocket" in salads, on pizzas, and in vases!

According to the Wikipedia article about eruca sativa, the arugula plant, "in addition to the leaves, the flowers (often used in salads as an edible garnish), young seed pods, and mature seeds are all edible." If you'd like to save the seeds for planting, How To Save Seeds recommends: "leave plants in the ground to overwinter after harvesting leaves for eating during the growing season. As with any member of the Cabbage Family, allow seeds to ripen and dry on the plant in the spring — but do not leave for long after they are dry or the pods will shatter and the seeds disperse. Arugula pods are thin-walled, and shatter quickly after drying."

I, obviously, did not wait until spring, because the seed pods were so pretty and I needed to use them right now. We gently popped open each pod and brushed the seeds and pod into a bucket, leaving only the translucent white septum. Once we'd done them all, we shook the bucket so the seeds would gather at the bottom, threw the pods away, and saved the seeds for planting next spring (we'd already planted our autumn arugula last week, but otherwise would have used these seeds).

I was tempted to keep the pods intact in the arrangement, but as mentioned above, they would have shattered and dispersed their seeds all over the house. As cute as the pods were, the diaphanous papery component on its own has a certain magic reminiscent of arugula's cousin, Lunnaria annua, also known as "money plant" or "silver dollar plant". I combined the arugula with those fascinating clematis spirals — Wikipedia informs me that they are called achenes — and an unknown variety of horsetail fern. I'm hoping to collect more rocket stems later in the year, enough to make a wreath or two. We'll see!

(Images: Tess Wilson)