I have been having great success growing Wild Rocket in my garden. My American friends will know it as Arugula. I chose this as one of my main plants to grow this summer, as it is the only green leafy vegetable that my husband will actually order in a restaurant – albeit with parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar on top!
Out of everything I have planted, it is the only vegetable that I can say is growing like wildfire, apparently it is easy to grow as it has shallow roots. Both my veggie patches get a lot of sun, which can cause the plant to ‘bolt’ and go a bit too peppery, but that is the characteristic of the plant that I like, and it seems to be doing ok. Wild rocket has a stronger flavour than usual rocket. It is drought resistant once it gets established, which is good as I am not very good at remembering to water my garden. I need to pick a lot it now, and every time I pick it, it will grow back, so we’ll have rocket all summer. And because it is a perennial, it will come back next year. Yay!
So what to do with it? Yes, we love rocket and parmesan salad. The vinegar and the salt of the cheese balance out the peppery flavour. But after a week, this might be a little tired. Following on from the great kale pesto I made a few weeks ago, I will probably try a rocket pesto. It can also be cooked, and used like spinach, served with some nice poached eggs and sundried tomato. Or for a fruity salad, serve with strawberry or watermelon.
So why eat it? Other than I have been able to grow it so now it’s free! As it is a green vegetable, it is packed with nutrients, such as lutein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, iron, magnesium and potassium. But the story for rocket goes much further. Bitter, as a taste has been pretty much wiped out of modern food. The only commonly used bitter food is coffee, and how many people drink it black with not sugar?? Bitter foods are very good at stimulating your digestion, so it makes sense to have your rocket salad before your main meal. Rocket is also a cruciferous vegetable, which means it contains sulphur compounds (sulforaphane), which may have the potential to slow cancer growth. Cooking the rocket makes the sulforaphane more available, so throw it in with your omelette. Cruciferous vegetables also contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol. This repairs the damage that carcinogens do to cells, and stops them turning cancerous. It also helps convert oestrogen from the cancer producing form to non-toxic breakdown product. Leafy greens in general can help lower blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity, control blood sugar and promote cardiovascular health.
Even if you can only have a pot or two to grow plants, I recommend rocket as a starter vegetable. Second choice would be tomatoes, but I’ll talk more about that another day!