Healthy Eating – Green Leaves and Rocket

Rocket is a popular salad green from the Brassicaceae family. Botanically recognised as Eruca satvia it is native to areas around the Mediterranean through Portugal, Lebanon and Turkey. It is an annual, which can grow to a metre in height but is usually harvested when less than 20cm.

Every part of the above ground parts of the plant can be eaten. The leaves are the most common but the flowers have been used in many dishes and as an edible garnish. The seeds and seed pods are also edible. The leaves add a mild peppery taste to salads.

Rocket can be grown in the home garden and leaves picked as required. If you have a hothouse or an area where you can grow them undercover you can pick young leaves straight from the pot or seeling tray. I grew several trays this way last year in a mixture of commercially available Potting mix with extra coco peat for moisture retention. These trays were more than sufficient for us for several months.

Rocket has only been cultivated as a vegetable for around 15 – 20 years. Leaves would be picked and eaten from wild varieties until its popularity increased and became a popular salad green. Historically, however, Rocket has been used since at least Roman Times.

As a member of the Brassicaceae family it has similar nutrient value. It is a good source of Vitamin C and Potassium. Nutrients are more potent when Rocket is eaten in uncooked.

The leaves can be cooked but they are usually served raw with other salad greens. They have often been used on Pizza for colour and flavour.

To summarise the many uses of Rocket:

  • Rocket leaves, pods and seeds can all be eaten. The flowers are also used as decoration and are also edible.
  • Rocket leaves can be cooked, but more often used in salads. They have been used as toppings on pizzas to add colour and flavour. When added to pizzas they are often left until after cooking.
  • Rocket leaves are excellent in salads mixed with finely sliced or grated radish, grated carrot, spinach leaves, Spanish onion and young curly lettuce leaves.
  • Rocket leaves can be boiled and eaten as a side dish or could be served in soups and stews. Cooked Rocket is perhaps a cross between Spinach and Cabbage.
  • Rocket grows quickly and could be ready to eat in salads within 4 – 6 weeks of growing.

Rocket would be an ideal inclusion in any vegetable garden. It is also a good starter vegetable for kids when they are starting to potter around in their own vegetable garden bed.

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