Arugula (Wild Rocket Plants)
Eruca vesicaria subsp.satva
Rocket, also widely known as Arugula or rucola, became immensely fashionable in the '90s and has remained so ever since. The peppery pungent leaves are a ubiquitous garnish in restaurants and taste zingy and delicious in a salad. The leaves are lance shaped and resemble a mini acanthus leaf in their convolutions. The flowers shoot up out of the leaves in summer and are also edible. They start off a yellowish colour, becoming purple with white veins as summer progresses. In autumn, rocket dies right back and needs to be dug up ready for another autumn planting in warm and sheltered climes. It can then be harvested all winter.
Rocket, a transient visitor
Rocket is a more ephemeral member of the herb garden because you need to sow it evey year. Ideally you would plant out young seedlings every month or so, in succession to use the jargon, so that you always have tasty, young leaves available. Site your rocket in the shade so that the soil never dries out which encourages it to bolt. Once the plant has decided to flower, as a member of the cabbage family, it sends out long stalks with delicate white flowers that are enormously atttractive in salads, or to garnish a starter. The downside is that at this point the leaves really do not taste that nice so you need to pick the leaves like topsy in summer to prevent the plant running to seed. You should also try to plant rocket really early in the season to prevent this and because the leaves are often attacked in high summer by flea beetle leaving each leaf looking like a small colander. To prevent this, cover the crop with horticultural fleece in the summer months. This has the added advantage of trapping some moisture so the leaves remain soft and delicious. Rocket is a tasty addition to risotto, and is an alternative to basil to make pesto and is one of the many leaves included in the Provencal salad mixture called mesclun.
- Height: 60-90 cm
- Colour: bright green, lance shaped leaves
- Flowers: delicate, white with purple veins
- Uses: garnish, salad
- Taste: pungent, peppery
- Harvest: summer
- Spacing: 20 cm
- Life: half-hardy annual
Although only recently "rediscovered", rocket was terribly popular with the Elizabethans who ate it a great deal. There is much lore associated with rocket leaves, one of the odder bits being that people used to eat them before being whipped to help to mitigate the pain. One for Christian Grey we feel!