Bunias orientalis, Turkish Rocket is a perennial broccoli-like plant. The immature flowering stems can be used like sprouting broccoli while the leaves provide the first and last greens of the season. It can also be cultivated like cardoon and blanched by tying up the leaves.
Turkish Rocket is a robust, fast-growing plant and a great, herbaceous addition to permaculture projects, it is one of the most hardy and long-lived of all winter salad greens. It is blessedly simple to grow. Easy to raise, never needs weeding or watering and goes on for ever.
The young tips of the stems in the spring, before flowering are very tasty, when raw they have a slightly nutty taste and the plants can be cropped two or three times in the summer. The large strap-like leaves have a mild cabbage flavour, are produced right through until autumn and are a good substitute for annual kale and collards.
This hardy perennial thrives in dappled shade and full sun. With a deep taproot that mines moisture and minerals, it is drought-tolerant and its flowers attracts beneficial insects in summer.
Turkish Rocket is a plant that is interesting and unusual and in some parts of the world, very useful.
We have been asked to stock seeds for quite a number of years. However, these seeds come with a caveat – We would be happy if you could take a few minutes to read all the information - right down to the bottom of the page.
This plant has a wonderful interesting history and in some parts of the world is very useful, but in other parts of the world the plants ability to self-seed is a real problem. Before you purchase seeds, please read and understand how to manage this plant.
Sowing: Sow in March to July or sow in August to September.
Seeds can be started early indoors or under glass or sown directly where they are to grow in early spring to summer. Light spring frosts will not harm the plants. They can also be can be sown in autumn. Germination is variable and erratic, usually taking around 30 days.
Sow seeds into deep pots, containing peaty compost. Keep at a temperature of around 20˚C (68˚F). In late spring once soil temperatures have warmed and seeds have at least two or three sets of true leaves, harden off for 7 to 10 days and plant outdoors 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) apart,
Seeds can be sown directly outdoors in late spring to summer once temperatures reach around 20˚C (68˚F). If sowing direct, sow thinly, 12mm (½in) deep in small clumps or shallow drills. Sow 30cm (12in) apart in well-cultivated soil which has been raked to a fine tilth. Keep moist and do not allow to dry out once planted. When large enough to handle, thin out seedlings until they are finally 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) apart in spring.
If you are having trouble with germination, or would like to speed up the process, you could try stratification: this method simply exposes the seedlings to temperature changes, as they would do if germinating naturally.
Sow the large seeds onto the surface of trays or pots containing good soil based compost and gently firm down. Place in a propagator or seal inside a polythene bag and keep at a daytime temperature of 13 to 15°C (55 to 60°F) for 2 to 3 weeks. After this time, move the tray to a refrigerator to cool (not a freezer) this will expose the seeds to temperatures of around 4°C (39°F) which will simulate the cold of winter. Leave them in the fridge for 3 to 6 weeks, after which remove the tray and place somewhere with normal daytime temperatures. Keep the compost moist at all times.
This method usually works for some of the seedlings but some seeds may wait for spring before emerging regardless of when or how they are sown. Prick out any seedlings that have germinated into pots to grow on, then place the tray back in the cold frame so that any seeds that remain may germinate naturally.
Turkish Rocket will thrive in partial sunlight. In hot areas of the world it may struggle in the heat of full sun. Water newly planted seedlings until established.
The plants will self-seed wherever it is planted and left to bloom. Control excessive seed production by deadheading promptly after blooming. Plants can also be propagated from division in spring.
Leaves can be harvested at any time and are often promoted as being the first and last greens in the garden. Young and tender leaves are available in the spring. This is a true cut-and-come-again plant. If you keep removing the larger, older leaves, then the plant will continue to produce young, tender leaves through most of the year in most growing environments. Flowering stems and flowers are available in late spring to early summer.
The plant is cultivated in France and still eaten extensively in Central Europe, where it is served chopped into sour cream with minced dill or fennel. As a cooked vegetable, it needs doctoring.
Turabi Efendi noted in his Turkish Cookery Book (1862) that bitter vegetables of this sort must first be scalded before they are cooked. This takes off the acrid radish taste. “If large, they are cut in pieces and placed in a stewpan, with a sufficient quantity of water, salt, and a few sliced onions previously fried a nice brown in butter or olive oil.” He further explained that fresh (clear) tomato juice was often used instead of broth or water. This definitely improves the flavour.
The plant is found in the European USSR, the Caucasus, south to Turkey, and the southern part of Western Siberia. It grows in fallow fields, meadows, wastelands, and pastures, as well as amid plantings of perennial herbs and along roads.
It is reported to have spread through Europe by Russian troops chasing after Napoleon’s retreating army (it was used to feed the Russian horses). It has also been reported to have been spread when the Russian empress sent grain seed to Sweden during a famine, but the grain contained many Turkish Rocket seeds. It is now naturalised across Europe and in some parts of North America.
Botanists have incorrectly presumed that it was brought to North America in ship ballast, when in fact it was imported and disseminated as a medical plant in the 1830s, especially by the Harmonites in western Pennsylvania. It is no accident that Bunias orientalis can still be found in areas near the old Harmonite religious communities. Its importance in homeopathic medicine lay in its application as an antiscorbutic for ‘lymphatic disturbances,’ an archaic expression for immune deficiencies. Because of this connection the plant has recently undergone a revival of interest, although its true medical properties remain unexplored.
Bunias is a genus in the Brassicaceae family. The genus includes only two accepted species, Bunias erucago and Bunias orientalis.
The species name, orientalis, refers to its Eastern affiliations.
It is commonly called Turkish Rocket, Hill Mustard, Turkish Warty Cabbage. In Eastern Europe and in Russia it is called ‘Dika redka’, meaning wild radish.
The name rocket is used for at least 20 species of herbs, mostly members of the mustard family, Brassicaceae. These species vary from well-known and widely cultivated to obscure and rarely or never grown. They share in common a distinctive zesty or sharp flavour that is akin to mustard or horseradish.
A key characteristic of Turkish Rocket is the ‘warty bumps’, or ‘tubercles’ on the stems. The small rounded protuberances are easily felt by running your finger over the stem surface.
In the US it is known as Hill Mustard since it prefers to grow on bald, stony ground on slag heaps around old mining sites.
Bunias orientalis, Turkish Rocket is native to the dry lowlands of the Black Sea steppe, which is a very demanding environment: the soil cracks as it dries, so Turkish Rocket spends the first year of its life growing a tap root which can reach down up to 2 metres into the ground. This adaptation also allows it to colonise other areas that have rich soil deep down. In its Russian homeland it is a troublesome weed. The species spread to the north in the mid-18th century when the Russian empress sent grain seed to Sweden when it was suffering from famine. Unfortunately the grain contained so many seeds that the plant became a real nuisance in central Swedish fields. It then spread to a large part of Europe in 1814 with the Russian soldiers that followed Napoleon’s retreating army. Turkish Rocket arrived in Finland with Russian soldiers’ provisions, mainly mixed in with grain and hay to feed Cossacks’ horses.
Turkish Rocket can still be found in the areas where Russian soldiers were most active: old barracks and garrison areas are adorned with bright yellow at the beginning of summer when it blooms, and the sweet fragrance of the flowers attracts many kinds of nectar-hunting insects. It spreads mainly via its seeds, which can germinate after lying a long time dormant: the finger-thick stem stands rigidly throughout the winter and the seeds spread efficiently across the frozen snow. In the days of Russian rule Turkish Rocket began to become more common with garrisons in the 1910s, and it is still spreading along highways and byways.
Nowadays Bunias orientalis grows in many inhabited areas in central and southern parts of Finland, and is casual in places as far north as central Lapland. Farmers were quite worried at the time when it began to spread, but Finnish fields are probably too acidic for the species as it has never established a foothold around crops. The largest member of the Mustard family that grows in Finland is thus regarded as more of an ornamental than a weed.
However, In Germany, Bunias orientalis, called Orientalische Zackenschote has covered many areas. Thirty years ago it was found along roadsides, but the plant has been spreading and has now penetrated into orchards, vineyards, and dry slopes and in areas of arable land and has reached even the most remote waysides.
Because of this plants great dispersal ability and displacement force, within a few years the plants have completely displaced the original species-rich vegetation and create monotonous stocks that are totally uninteresting for insects. Natural enemies and predators are entirely absent.
We have been asked to stock seeds of Turkish Rocket for quite a number of years and have decided to do so on the understanding that education is always more powerful than ignorance.
If you do choose to plant seeds of Bunias orientalis the resulting plants will need to be managed.
This is not difficult to do, the flower heads are simply removed prior to the formation of seeds. But this must be done each and every year, ensuring that a seed bank does not collect in open ground.
If, in the future, if you do decide to remove the plant then simply dig out the ground level rosette leaves and root to around 30cm (12in) into the soil, ensuring that the plant cannot continue to grow and will not return.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 15 Seeds Common Name Bunias orientalis Family Brassicaceae Genus Bunias Species orientalis Synonym Broccolis Hardiness Hardy Perennial Soil It will grow in most soil types, asking only consistent moisture. Time to Sow Outside in August and September,
or sow under protection, from August to December and in March or April.
Germination Seed usually germinates rapidly. Time to Harvest This great winter salad crop should give a continuous supply of leaves
from October to May.