Rocket is an annual that grows up to a meter in height when left to go to seed but in cultivation is around 40cm tall. It has a peppery taste and is great in salads, pesto and on pizzas amongst many other things.
The plant is native to the Mediterranean region but up until the 1990’s was generally only regularly consumed by Italians and their multi-national descendants. In recent years it has enjoyed an enormous growth in consumption and appreciation. Be it at the Oscar ceremonies or the in your VEG bed, for the fashion conscious, rocket is one hot plant to be seen with.
There are up to 20 known varieties of rocket, the two main ones available in Australia are simply ‘rocket’ and the hardier punkier sounding ‘wild rocket’ (which is actually a different species, Diplotaxis tenuifolia).
Health and Nutrition
Rocket is rich in potassium and has a high vitamin C and vitamin A content. It contains beneficial amounts of folic acid, calcium, manganese, and magnesium. Like other leafy greens it has a natural detoxifying effect.
When to sow
Sow anytime of the year in Melbourne, although it is sensitive to frost.
Rocket can be planted incredibly close together and then harvested as salad greens in as little as 3 weeks. Just broadcast reasonably densely and thin at will.
Lightly cover broadcast crop in compost or loose soil to a depth of 1-2cm.
Time to harvest
Leaves should be regularly picked or you will get a strong taste. The easiest way to see if they are getting tough and bitter is the presence of a furry underside. Continuous cutting of the young leaves stimulates further leaf production
Rocket does not tolerate dry conditions well so the soil will need to remain moist but otherwise requires no special treatment other than a crop rotation along with the other Brassicas.
Pests and Diseases
Look out for clubroot fungal infection as well as snails and caterpillars.