Tips For Growing Rocket
Growing rocket may sound exciting, like making a spaceship, but unless you are a diehard salad eater, you may not appreciate rocket. Otherwise known as salad rocket, rocket is a spicy green which is used in small amounts to liven up salads and other dishes. It is related to the brassica (mustard) family, which is a huge group of plants which includes cabbages, kale, rutabagas, turnips, rape, cauliflowers, and radishes. That means that you should not plant rocket where any brassicas have been grown in the past two years. Brassicas can infect the soil with a disease called clubroot, which is highly contagious.
Very early spring is the best time to grow rocket as it does best in cool weather. You can also grow it in the late fall as a cover crop. Growing rocket in the heat is not good as it will bolt and become unusable very quickly. When you plant, only use around half a package of seeds at a time as it is so hot that it is not used in huge quantities. The seeds are very small and should be spread as thinly and evenly as possible. Be careful not to rinse the seeds out of the row by watering too heavily. You should cover the seeds with only a very light layer of soil or they may have trouble popping through the soil.
Growing rocket is not easy, so if it is your heart‘s desire to grow rocket, you are going have to be very persistent. That’s because the seeds are unreliable when it comes to germination, and the plant has a major pest problem. Flea beetles, if left to themselves, will devour an entire crop in no time. Plants that do survive will have holes in the leaves so you won‘t be able to sell them at farmers’ markets. If you live in a location where it gets cool but not frigid, growing rocket in the fall will produce a nice crop in November. This plant grows wild in the Mediterranean and parts of Europe.
Salad rocket was eaten as far back as Roman times, where it was not only popular in salads but also as an aphrodisiac. The British brought rocket with them when the colonists settled in New England. Rocket has always been more popular in countries such as Italy and Spain than in the United States.
When harvesting rocket, you can cut off individual leaves to eat or you can cut off the entire plant at the base. It will grow back. Leaves are usually eaten when they are two to three inches long. Salad rocket does not have a long shelf life, lasting only a couple days in the refrigerator. It can be frozen, however, like many other types of greens.
People asked to describe the taste of salad rocket, have compared it in similarity to both pepper and horseradish. If you are not a salad eater, you can steam rocket or you can puree it and add it to homemade soups. You can use it to spice up any recipe, especially tomato dishes. In India, an oil is extracted from the leaves to make Jamba oil, which is used for medicinal purposes.
Salad rocket is a good source of iron and vitamin C. In the 90s it was very popular as an entrée with parmesan cheese. In Europe, it is often served in sandwiches or baguettes with melted goat’s cheese. It can also be worked into several kinds of pasta dishes. Be careful not to use too much rocket salad, or it will make a dish very bitter. Likewise, outside in the garden, if a plant flowers, its season is over as it will be to bitter to eat.