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Rocket’s peppery taste is perfect for any salad

As part of Michael Kelly’s 52 Veg – A Year of Growing, Cooking and Eating your own Food series – this week, we talk rocket.

Michael Kelly

INCREDIBLY USEFUL, HARDY, delicious, healthy and easy to grow, rocket is a great salad crop. It grows abundantly and gives a peppery taste to any salad.

Easy to start with, it’s a great crop for kids to grow and can be grown in containers.

There are basically two types of rocket. (1) Wild rocket is a small, squat plant with narrow leaves. (2) Salad rocket is a taller plant where the leaves and flowers are edible. Rocket can be enjoyed fresh all year around, though summer sowings are prone to bolting. It is high in vitamin C and potassium.

Sowing

Rocket can be sown pretty much all year around. Because it’s prone to bolting and older plants are less tender, I generally sow some every few weeks so I have a constant supply of new plants coming through. I then do a bigger sowing in September for a winter supply from the polytunnel.

rocket

Sow in module trays, about 5 seeds per module and plant out about a month later (do not break up the plants). A single six-module tray should be more than enough for each sowing. When planting out allow 25cm between rows and plants.

You can also sow direct by making shallow drills (about 1cm deep) – allow 25cm between drills. Sprinkle seed in the drill and cover with a small amount of soil or potting compost.

Growing

Rocket grows quickly. Weed well by hoeing between rows. In the event of a dry summer (or if growing in a greenhouse or polytunnel), water well. Do not overwater as it dilutes the taste.

Harvesting

Either cut individual leaves as required, or cut the entire plant at about 5cm and allow it to grow back. You should be able to start harvesting rocket about 4 weeks after sowing.

Recommended Varieties

Salad Rocket: Victoria or Dentallata. Wild Rocket: Napoli.

Problems

Summer sowings are prone to attack from fleabeetles which leave tiny holes in the leaves. Cover with enviromesh in the summer if growing outside. Winter sowings will not need this.

Tips

  • Rocket flowers are edible and an attractive addition to a salad.
  • Rocket will grow well in pretty much any type of soil, as long as it’s reasonably fertile.

shutterstock_185678162 Source: Shutterstock/Pinkyone

Recipe of the Week – Rocket, Feta and Pomegranate Salad

Ingredients:

  • 200g/7oz feta
  • splash lemon juice
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
  •  100g/3½oz flaked almonds, toasted
  • 120g rocket
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pomegranates, seeds only

Directions:

Put the feta in a shallow dish, squeeze over the lemon juice and scatter over the garlic. Leave to marinate while you prepare the rest of the salad. Toast the almonds under a medium grill until lightly browned, then leave to cool.

Cut the pomegranate in half and pop the seeds out into a bowl by bashing the skin with a spoon. Toss the rocket in a large salad bowl with the olive oil, and salt and freshly ground pepper. Crumble in the marinated feta, and scatter the pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds over.

Serve immediately.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.

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