Growing rocket
salad herb and garden filler

Eruca sativaEruca sativa

Growing rocket in the vegetable or herb garden is a must for me. It is not only easy to grow and propagate, I love its light peppery flavour with a host of dishes.

Its Latin name is Eruca sativa, the species name indicating that it is edible, and the Genus name similar to one of its common names Arugula.

seed trays, seeds, sowing calendars, pencil, delicate sprinklerseed trays, seeds, fine sprinkler, pencil, labels and calendars

Proceed with growing rocket using the usual basic procedures

As with growing all leaf vegetables and many other vegetables, your seed starter working kit is similar.

Consult the seed planting calendar. Rocket is best sown from September through to December or from Spring to midsummer. You can go on plucking leaves for the rest of the season. Get your trays ready with pre wetted soil, preferably a 50/50 sand compost mix, and get some fine sand ready to cover the seeds with.

Wash your hands, spill a tiny amount of seed in your palm. Never put your hand in the seed packet, we can carry plant pathogens.

There are a number of ways you can distribute seed. You can use a tiny wetted pencil tip to move individual seeds from your palm and position them in a seed tray. This is quite an art and I just sprinkle them like salt between my fingertips. You then scatter fine material over the seed to a depth similar to the size of the seed, as a general rule. In the case of rocket put a 2 mm layer on top of the soil in the seed tray. You can also place the seed on the soil and then push it down with a pencil tip to the right depth and gently pat the hole closed.

Sprinkle your rocket lightly with your easy home made delicate sprinkler (see growing carrots) and always label to avoid confusion if you have lots of plants. 

sow rocket in spring and early summerWhent growing rocket sow in spring and early summer

Rocket is a Brassica, and has the typical round seeds that look like mustard, and grow in small pods. I harvested a lot of rocket seed some years ago but it does not germinate. That may have several causes from which one can learn about procedures. I'm sowing out of season, in winter. I may have had a lot of green unripe seed in the bag. Let the seed ripen fully before removing it from the plant and enclose with a paper bag to make sure that when the pods split the seed does not fall on the ground and get lost. I may have waited too long to plant it, or it may have been attacked by a pathogen in storage. Keeping your self caught seed in the fridge may help with this. 

When the seeds come up they have the typical two half round seed leaves of the brassicas. The seedlings are not needy. Let them grow and plant them out between other vegetables or even in your flower beds, where their tiny white four petalled flowers like fairy windmills on a much divided inflorescence can form fine spindly texture at about 1 metre.

Growing rocket fills spaces in beds and on awkward edgesGrowing rocket fills spaces in beds and on awkward edges

Growing rocket was recommended by Charlemagne for the herb garden, as it had been a salad vegetable in the Mediterranean region and near east since Roman times. Its use has become very widespread today, coming from diverse origins. I’ll quickly touch on some variants just for inspirational purposes. In Italy it is most often used as a garnish on pasta, or raw beef, or in a fried sauce for fish and meat made with olive oil and garlic. On some Italian islands it flavours alcohol, but on Cyprus omelettes and in Egypt seafood. It can be found as a relish with olive oil and lemon juice in Turkey. In India the seeds are pressed to make flavored oil. In Slovenia it is served with potatoes, cheese or soup and in Brazil it is eaten with dried tomatoes and mozarella, and my husband makes a great green soup using rocket.

Rocket has lobed pinnate leaves with a larger end lobeRocket has lobed pinnate leaves with a larger end lobe

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