In recent years, Rocket has undergone a renaissance and a whole range of varieties are now available in a variety of leaf shapes and flavours. Rocket 'Uber' is a refined variety of the classic salad rocket type.
The leaves are thick, dark green and slightly savoyed with a mild flavour and good texture. They have an oval shape when young and become indented at maturity.
The plant has an upright habit for ease of harvesting and is suitable for growing all year round.
Also known as arugula, Rocket is popular in Italy and Southern France, where it has been grown and eaten for centuries. This aromatic salad green is typically found in mesclun mixes, used fresh it adds a peppery note to salads. It is ideal as a bed for seafood but also makes a wonderful salad on its own. Cooked lightly it can be added to stir-fries, it also makes a delicious spinach substitute. Use leaves when they are young and tender for a hot tangy flavour, as they mature they become peppery and hot.
Rocket is a quick-growing, cool-weather green, performing best in spring to early summer. After that time, give it some shade or plant it under shade cloth or in the shade of an airy tree (not dense shade). Too much drought and summer heat will cause the leaves to be smaller and more peppery.
Sow seeds directly into a bed containing any good fertile, well drained soil. Use a line to mark out the row. Sowing in a straight line allows you to identify where your rocket seedlings are and which are the weed seedlings to pick out.
Sow just a small quantity at one time, and then sow successionally, to harvest over a longer period. A 1m (3ft) row is usually enough to get you started. Late summer sowings will carry on cropping into the winter if the plants are protected by cloches.
Sow in spring for summer greens, and in autumn for winter greens.
Sow thinly 6mm (¼in) deep in drills spaced 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) apart. Sow the seeds thinly along the row, spacing them out as evenly as possible. The distance between the seeds should be about 3cm. (1¼in) Cover the seed lightly with soil. Remove any weed remnants or large stones as you go to ensure the plants have a good start.
Water the seeds in well using a watering can with the rose attached. This means you drench the soil but minimise disturbance to the seeds.
Flea beetle can be a problem in summer, nibbling holes in rocket leaves. The best defence is to cover the row with a length of horticultural fleece.
Rocket will always want to flower in summer, because this is the time of year when all crucifers naturally flower, then produce seed.
As autumn approaches, cover crops with sheets of horticultural fleece to keep the cold at bay, and you could be cropping right through to first frosts.
Simply pick the young leaves and the plant will keep generating new ones for months. Older leaves are a bit tougher and hotter. Pick over the whole row rather than just one or two plants as this would weaken them.
As the flower buds appear pinch them out to prolong cropping. The flowers are small, white with dark centers and can be used in the salad for a light piquant flavour.
Rinse the leaves in cool water and dry on paper towelling. Wrap leaves tightly in plastic or a zip lock bag. Best if used within two days.
Arugula is a nutritional powerhouse, containing significant folate (folic acid) and calcium. Exceptionally high in beta carotene, vitamin C, and a good source of iron, Arugula is a member of the same family as cabbage and broccoli and like all such vegetables; it contains cancer-fighting phytochemicals called indoles.
You can substitute water cress for a similar peppery flavor. You can also use fresh baby spinach (but the flavour will not be the same). Also dandelion greens have a tart flavour but a bit more bitter.
The term arugula (variations of Italian dialects around Arigola) is used by the Italian diaspora in Australia and North America and from there picked up as a loan word to a varying degree in American and Australian English, particularly in culinary usage. The names ultimately all derive from the Latin word eruca.
Vernacular names include Garden Rocket, Rocket, Eruca, Rocket salad, or Arugula (American English), In Italy, it can be known as Rucola, Rugola, Rucola gentile, Rughetta, Ruchetta or Rucola selvatica.
Throughout the world there are variations: Rauke or ruke (German), Roquette (French), Rokka (Greek), Ruca (Catalan), Beharki (Basque), Oruga (Spanish), Rúcula (Portuguese) krapkool (Flemish), Arugula Selvatica, arugula sylvatica, aeruca rocket, eruka psevnaya (Russian), oruga (Spanish), jaramago (Spanish), Roman rocket, salad rocket, sciatica cress, shinlock.
In Roman times, Arugula was grown for both its leaves and the seed. The seed was used for flavouring oils. Part of a typical Roman meal was to offer a salad of greens, frequently arugula, romaine, chicory, mallow and lavender and seasoned with a 'cheese sauce for lettuce'.
It has been used in England in salads since Elizabethan times. On another interesting note, Rocket or Arugula seed has been used as an ingredient in aphrodisiac concoctions dating back to the first century, AD. (Cambridge World History of Food) - …but we can make no promises!
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2 grams Average Seed Count 800 seeds Seeds per gram 400 to 450 seeds per gram Common Name Cultivated Rocket
Arugula, Roquette, Rucola, Rugula
Family Brassicaceae Genus Eruca Species versicaria ssp sativa Cultivar Uber Hardiness Hardy Biennial Height 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Spacing 15 to 22cm (6 to 9in) Position Full sun Soil Well-drained/light, Clay/heavy, Time to Sow March to September Time to Harvest April to November