Notes from Herb Heaven
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
Dice the unpeeled potatoes
Add the remaining rocket and finish cooking