Rocket is rich in vitamin C and potassium, and its peppery aromas make it a great addition to any salad. It’s fast and easy to grow but prefers cooler climates and unfortunately won’t be possible to grow outdoors if you’re based in tropical parts of Australia. For those who find themselves in subtropical, temperate or cool climates, read this guide carefully and you could be harvesting your first crunchy leaves in just 40 days time.
The two most common varieties of rocket grown are Cultivated Arugula and Wild Arugula. The main difference between the two that Wild Arugula has a stronger taste, whilst Cultivated Arugula is highly productive and grows quickly. Whilst these are the two most popular varieties, why not try out some of the other quirkier cultivars, such as wasabi flavoured rocket! Take a look at the list below of some of our recommended rocket varieties to grow:
Cultivated Arugula: The normal rocket you’ll find in most supermarkets. It’s packed with spicy and nutty flavours and is great in salads or sprinkled on top of dishes like pizza, pasta or risotto. This variety produces white edible flowers which can be harvest as they appear. Ready to harvest in 35 days.
Wild Arugula: Wild arugula is slightly slower growing and its leaves are more lobed than cultivated arugula. This variety has a stronger, more pungent flavour and it produces yellow edible flowers. Ready to harvest in 50 days.
Wasabi: A spoon-shaped rocket that leaves the same tingle sensation in the nose as Japanese wasabi does. This variety produces yellow flowers which are edible and can be harvested as they appear. Ready to harvest in 45 days.
Esmee: This variety produces leaves similar to the rounded leaves of an oak tree. Esmee is a fast-growing variety with a nutty and mildly spicy flavour. Ready to harvest in 40 days.
Dragons Tongue: A relatively new cultivar of rocket that gets its name from the dragon tongue shape and dark purple vain that runs through the spine of the leaves. Packed with a peppery punch, Dragons Tongue rocket makes a brilliant side salad to any dish. Ready to harvest in 35 days.
To grow rocket, you’ll need a nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Sow your seeds in rows 15cm apart and at a depth of around 0.5cm to 1cm. Try gently sprinkling soil over your seeds, instead of burying them, as their small size means they’ll need to be quite shallow. In order to harvest a continuous supply of rocket throughout the growing season, we recommend sowing a new batch every two to three weeks.
Rocket prefers cooler temperatures so make sure to sow the seeds in spring or autumn. If you plan to grow the rocket in your garden, then you’ll want to find a semi-shaded spot. Rocket does grow really well in containers if you’re limited by space. Unfortunately, if you’re based in a tropical climate growing rocket can be a challenge due to the leaves not tolerating the high humidity and hot temperatures. Take a look at the table below to determine when to plant your rocket:
Soil: You’ll want to provide nutrient-rich soil for your rocket to grow successfully. Mix in some compost a week or two before you sow the seeds.
Water: Rocket plants develop shallow roots, so you’ll want to keep the topsoil moist all the time. Don’t overwater your crop though, as this can destroy the plants and also dilute the taste. A good way to retain the soil moisture is to apply a thin layer of mulch on top of the soil.
Fertiliser: If your soil is rich enough in compost then chances are you won’t need to feed your rocket at all. However, if you’re growing rocket continuously within a growing season, then you could consider applying small amounts of liquid fertiliser.
Harvest your rocket frequently when the leaves are young, as this is when the taste is most enjoyable. To harvest the leaves simply pick them with your fingers. Rocket is a fast grower, so, depending on the variety you grow, your crop should be ready to harvest four to five weeks after they’ve been sowed.
Don’t forget: the flowers of rocket are also edible! Harvest these as soon as they appear, they’ll make a delicious garnish on your salads.
Rocket is best enjoyed freshly picked! We recommend gently rinsing the leaves before eating them. You can keep rocket well preserved in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Another way to preserve your rocket for a later date is to place them in an airtight container in the freezer.
Rocket tastes delicious in salads, we recommend you try out this roasted squash, sheep’s cheese and hazelnut and rocket salad, this orange, rocket and currant salad, or perhaps this simple parmesan and rocket salad. Another fantastic way to enjoy rocket is to sprinkle it on top of any pizza of your choice. Why not try this Parma ham, rocket and red onion pizza recipe. Although rocket tastes great crispy and fresh, it also works well when cooked. Try out this rocket and parmesan frittata.
Q & A with Deryn Thorpe
Grow It Local 2020 Awards
What's growing on with Rodney Dunn