Rocket | Arugula

Native to the Mediterranean basin and eastward to Turkey and Jordan, rocket has been popular as a salad green since ancient Roman times for its peppery, smoky, meaty flavour. It is an annual plant resembling an open lettuce, with deeply pinnately lobed leaves that are aromatic and peppery. Arugula contains similar compounds to horseradish and wasabi. The leaves add considerable flavour to other salad greens, while the piquantly flavoured, four petalled white flowers can be added to salads. I make a salad of arugula, white radish and tomatoes. The small round seeds are borne in siliques, which are seed capsules that separate when ripe. My rocket that I planted (see below) has self seeded and is now growing wild in my garden.

Wild Rocket

Plant rocket in full sun in the cooler months, but in midsummer provide some light shade. Rocket is quite unfussy otherwise thriving in average garden soil. Sow rocket in successive plantings each month, from spring to autumn, as it tends to flower fairly easily. If it doesn’t self seed in your garden, carry out monthly plantings to maintain your supplies.

Pick rocket leaves before flowering, otherwise they become more bitter – the same applies for older leaves. Once picked, wash well, and store in the fridge the same way you would lettuce. Harvest the flowers as required for fresh use, and collect seeds when ripe. Rocket is a member of the same plant family as cabbage and broccoli  The flavour will change from a tangy peppery flavour if grown in spring and autumn, to a more mustard like taste if harvested during summer. This salad herb goes well with other salad leaves to make a mixed salad. The younger leaves tend to have a milder flavour. Rapidly sauté or steam rocket for use in pasta and risotto dishes, stir-fries, soups and sauces, or to replace basil in pesto. Rocket needs only the briefest cooking. Add a scattering of the fresh herb as a traditional topping for pizzas at the end of baking. The ancient Romans used rocket seeds to flavour oil. The seeds make excellent sprouts and are also pressed for oil.

information sourced from The Complete Book of Herbs

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