[Market-farming] Washing arugula and pricing

Harriet Allen hattie_allen at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 11 20:07:45 EDT 2011

I charge $4 a bag for the triple-washed baby arugula and generally it weighs between one-quarter and one-third of a pound.  This is very young arugula, with leaves just a couple inches long.  The convenience of having it completely ready for the customer to use lets me charge a premium for it.  But, this is labor intensive.  I just use large pots of water--that the 5-gallon salad spinner will fit into with room to swoosh around and submerge.  Getting the arugula dry enough but not too dry is tricky sometimes.  It has to be bagged fairly quickly or it will dry out on top.  If it has to sit for a bit, I place it in large bins and cover with a wet towel in a cool garage...but I do not let it sit for long, because I want it to get into refrigeration as quickly as possible.  I bag it and close the bag with a small piece of easily removed tape or a twist tie.  Sometimes I even use address labels with my name and the item on it so it looks
 professional--but they are expensive. 
I have invested in marine hose so that the water is potable and isn't picking up all the bad things they say are in regular garden hoses and brass fittings (lead, etc.).  I clean the tubs with a mixture of clorox and dish soap (a very small amt. of clorox is sufficient and rinse well.  Cleaning them after use and once again prior to use keeps you within the safety standards.  Also letting the sun dry them is a good option as that helps disinfect.
Everything should be clean.  Surfaces, salad spinner, harvesting equipment, etc.  Even still, it can not be sold "ready to eat."  I always have to tell the customer it should be washed for legal reasons (even though I know it is very clean).  You can't sell something "ready to eat" without jumping through more hoops...and calling it processed and that gets you to a whole new level of marketing and safety rules, etc.  so I stick with just selling a really quality product that speaks for itself.  People really appreciate how clean it is and easy to use.
The more mature arugula I basically do the same thing with, but sell it in much much larger bags while keeping the price always the same...I do not bunch it as is traditional.  It won't hold up at my market that way and there are other vendors doing that at my market who sell only a couple dozen bunches at most and throw away anything more they don't sell.
I keep mine in a cooler with ice at market so that it can go through the entire morning without damage. That way I am able to sell what I have left at a discount to restaurants, etc.  It takes time before people know you have it since it is kind of hidden in coolers, but you have to be vocal, pull some out and have it displayed, etc.  And pretty soon, everyone will be talking about it!  I open the cooler, lay a wet burlap bag across the top and put a sign on the open lid. The burlap insulates and people learn to reach in.  I do this with my lettuce as well.  We often have 85 plus degree market days and I think lettuce, arugula, etc. are not fit to eat after an hour or so of that kind of heat.
Hattie Allen
Hattie's Garden
Lewes, DE 19958  
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