Name: rocket, arugula, rucola, true rocket (Eruca sativa syn Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa).
Height: up to 100cm tall if allowed to flower and set seed, but generally grows 20–40cm.
Plant type: annual herb, readily self-sows.
Foliage: multi-lobed dark green leaves.
Climate: tropical, sub-tropical, warm and cool temperate.
Soil: well-drained soil enriched with compost or well-rotted manure. In pots, use a good quality potting mix.
Position: full sun to part shade.
Flowering and fruiting: small creamy-white flowers followed by long thin pods.
Feeding: feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser.
Watering: water regularly.
An edible herb with lobed leaves that have a strongly pungent flavour. The leaves are best consumed when young, as they become quite bitter and more peppery as they mature. It’s fast-growing and suitable for growing in garden beds or pots. It can go to flower or ‘bolt’ when conditions are warm or the plant is suffering from moisture stress, signifying the plant has come to its end.
It is often confused with wild rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) as their leaves are similar in flavour and appearance. However, wild rocket is slower growing and is considered a weed in some states.
The leaves are popular in mesclun-style salads, but they are also wonderful as the hero ingredient in salads like rocket and parmesan or rocket, walnut and pear. It can also be added to cooked dishes including pasta and pizza or turned into a pesto.
Rocket seed can be sown year-round in most climates, although cooler temperatures are said to produce the best crops. In warm-temperate and subtropical climates, sow seeds in autumn and winter; in cooler climates, sow in autumn and spring. Choose a sunny spot in the garden with well-drained soil. If you live in an area where the summers are very hot, plant in part shade or provide protection from the afternoon sun.
The rocket leaves will be ready to harvest after six weeks, but the younger leaves can be picked sooner, if desired. Pick individual leaves regularly to enjoy the flavour and sow successive crops 3–4 weeks apart to extend the harvest window.
Rocket needs to be kept well-watered, especially in hot and dry conditions, otherwise it can prematurely bolt. Water regularly to keep the soil moist and use an organic mulch like sugarcane or pea straw to help retain soil moisture.
It can also bolt if the leaves are not harvested regularly or if there are sudden changes in temperature. The flowers and seeds are edible, but you may wish to collect the seed to sow again or allow it to self-sow. To prevent plants running to seed, pinch or remove flower buds when sighted.
Rocket needs to be watered regularly to help keep the soil moist. If it dries out, this can cause the plant to prematurely bolt.
Feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser suitable for herbs and vegies. A liquid fertiliser will provide fast-acting nutrients to support its speedy growth.
Flea beetles nibble small holes in leaves, but generally do not cause too much of a problem.
Harvest the outer, mature leaves first, leaving the younger ones on the inside to develop in size and flavour.
The best way to grow rocket is from seeds or seedlings.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
Spinach: another easy-to-grow leafy green, ideal for imparting a mild, earthy flavour.
Chives: the best of both worlds – onion and garlic – without waiting months for a harvest.
Lettuce: a salad green that’s easy to grow and perfect for gardens of all sizes.
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