Notes from Herb Heaven

Rocket

Arugula in America, rocket in South Africa, this herb is one you either love or hate. When giving it to visitors to taste while walking in the gardens, invariably it elicits either a serious frown or a delighted smile. This is not a plant that fosters indifference! Cultivated since the Middle Ages, rocket was loved by the Romans and in Italy is a popular herb to this day. Usually known as a sun-loving annual, it is biennial in warmer climates, needing some shade in very hot tropical summers. Sow seeds every four weeks for succession.

Sometimes spelled roquette, this fast growing plant likes loose rich, composted, well-drained soil, although it has been known to grow in some quite inhospitable places as well. Be warned that its leaves will be tougher when grown in poor soil. Use these for soups and stews. It needs a good watering in dry weather, although the roots must not be waterlogged. Try growing it in a container near the kitchen door. Leave about 4 cm between plants. Water it regularly and cut it often to prevent it developing flowers and seedpods. If left to go to seed it can become tall and straggly. When watered regularly, the plant will produce tender, sweet tasting leaves. Cut the stems off when harvesting and you will find a new crop of leaves growing back in a few weeks. Fertilise every fortnight or so with a soluble, high nitrogen food. Rocket is an excellent addition to the compost heap, as it breaks down easily and quickly. For a nutritious plant food, mix it with water and borage or comfrey. If left to go to seed, rocket will self-sow quite prolifically.

Dry pods out in a paper bag and then store them in airtight jars. Medicinally, rocket can be used to prevent colds. It is high in vitamins and minerals, chlorophyll and iron. Rocket is a digestive aid and can help fluid retention. It has been used as a cough syrup when boiled in honey. To store rocket, wash, drain and dry it, then place in an open plastic bag ~ one from the supermarket will do. This will keep for about three days in the refrigerator. It is also possible to freeze it after washing and drying. Leave whole or chop and store in a plastic freezer bag for use in cooked dishes (as you would spinach).


Rocket and Potato Frittata

4 large eggs
450 gm new potatoes
4 spring onions, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 T olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
200 gm rocket

 Dice the unpeeled potatoes 
Peel and chop the garlic and spring onions
Rinse and drain the rocket and chop it fine
Beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic and 
spring onions until soft, then set aside.

Fry the diced potatoes until brown
Add spring onions and garlic to the potatoes 
~ add half the rocket and reheat
Pour beaten eggs into pan with the 
potato mixture and cook gently until nearly done.

Add the remaining rocket and finish cooking
Invert onto plate or slice it in the pan and serve.

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