06 Jul 2023
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Seed to Leaf: Rocket, also called arugula, salad rocket or garden rocket, is a member of the mustard (Brassicaceae) family of plants. It can be harvested from early summer to autumn, but it tends to turn bitter in hot weather, so it’s a summer crop in cooler areas.
Spicy Linguistics: Its scientific name ‘Eruca sativa’ comes from the Latin words ‘uro‘ or ‘urere’, which translates to burn, referring to the hotness and pepperiness of its leaves.
A Roman Aphrodisiac Tale: The plant is native to regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It has been described by 1st-century Roman authors for its aphrodisiac properties. Medicinally, it was used as a diuretic and to improve digestion. (Testai et al. 2022)
Grow your Own! Rocket is considered easy to grow from seed and is ready to harvest in just a few weeks. It’s a compact plant that is great in small spaces and containers, so you can grow it on a balcony, patio or courtyard. Check out this RHS guide or this guide to get children involved.
A proud member of the Brassica family: Epidemiological studies have reported beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on several health outcomes, including a reduced risk of cancer, cardiometabolic diseases and musculoskeletal conditions. (Li et al. 2022; Connolly et al. 2021)
How does it work? Rocket leaves contain a diversity of nutrients and phytochemicals that may contribute to its suggested health benefits, especially:
In lab models, rocket extracts (E. sativa) regulate inflammatory pathways, activate apoptotic mechanisms and show hypoglycaemic effects.
Why so peppery? The flavour of rocket leaves is due to the presence of glucosinolates, especially glucosativin and glucoerucin, and their breakdown products.
It’s in the genes: Depending on the genetic makeup of different rocket varieties, the flavour can range from hot and peppery to bitter or even slightly sweet. Our own genes also influence how bitter we taste rocket’s phytochemicals.
Around the world
Rocket embraces different identities worldwide. It’s salatrauke in German, eruca in Spanish, roquette in french and rucola in Italian.
Not a fan? Rocket’s peppery flavour may surprise you. Some tips to help you appreciate it:
5 ways to enjoy rocket leaves
4 recipes to try