Also known as rucula or arugula, the previously unheard-of Rocket shot to fame in the culinary world in the 80’s and has stayed at the top of the salad pops since then. Fresh rocket adds a peppery-nutty, sharp taste to salads and sauces and will elevate even the humblest of sandwiches. It is fuss-free and easy to grow in beds, borders and pots where it will readily sow itself, ensuring a continuous crop.
Rocket is available for planting from seeds or in seedling trays and individual herb pots at Lifestyle Home Garden. It can be sown from spring to mid-autumn and planted from seedlings throughout the year, although it does fare better during the cooler seasons. From late spring and throughout summer it should be grown as a cut-and -grow crop as it tends to bolt in the hot weather. Sow seeds directly where they are to mature in the garden or in pots and thin out to about 15cm apart if needed. Use the thinned out seedlings as you would the leaves. Rocket is a fast grower and the first leaves will be available for picking within a few weeks. If used regularly it is recommended that you stagger planting at 3-4 week intervals to ensure a continuous supply.
Rocket is available either as semi-hardy, annual cultivated rocket (Eruca sativa) or the hardier perennial Wild rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia). Both require similar growing conditions:
POSITION: Sun (preferably morning sun) / Semi-shade
SOIL: Well-composted, friable soil or a good quality potting soil and good drainage if planting in pots.
WATERING: Rocket needs to be kept moist, but not waterlogged. Water twice a week in beds and every second day in pots. Keep free of weeds.
FEEDING: Feed once a month with an organic, water-soluble fertilizer of your choice.
PEST CONTROL: Rocket very rarely attracts pests, probably because of its strong flavour.
Pick the fresh leaves regularly to promote new, healthy growth and delay flower formation. Remove the flower heads before they set seed and use in salads. If left to go to seed, the seeds can be harvested and used to sprinkle salads, pasta or grilled steak. When plants become lanky, cut them right down and they will grow back with renewed vigour.
Companion Plants for Rocket:
Grow Rocket near tomatoes, onions, chives, garlic and raspberries where they will enhance each other’s flavour.
Uses for Rocket:
Fresh: Add to a salad of leafy greens or any other salad and infuse in salad dressings. A pesto of fresh rocket is delicious with cold meats, strong cheeses and grilled fish or steak. Fresh leaves also add a lovely peppery touch to rice, pasta, scrambled eggs and omelettes.
Cooked: Add to pastas, soups, stews, curries and sauces or sauté in a bit of olive oil and use as a pizza or baked potato topping.
DID YOU KNOW?
Rocket was widely revered and used in ancient times and it is thought that the very first ‘street food’, sold in marketplaces in the 1500’s, was a piece of French bread, a bunch of rocket, a small container of olive oil and a bit of coarse salt… bring that back!