Traditional mediterranean salad rocket. Young leaves are round to oval shape, becoming indented as plant matures. Leaf colour is pale to mid green. Flavour is mild but still peppery.
In the milder areas of Britain it is possible to produce edible leaves all year round from successional sowings, especially if the winter crop is given some protection.
Rocket was at one time used medicinally, though it is now used only as a salad herb.
Rocket is cultivated for its edible leaves and flowers, it can be ready for harvest within 40 days of sowing the seed. Plants usually self-sow freely if the ground is disturbed in some way, such as by hoeing.
A very easily grown and fast-maturing plant, it succeeds in most soils and conditions, though it prefers some shade in summer. Once established, plants are quite drought resistant.
Sow outdoors in spring in situ. Germination is usually very quick and free. In order to obtain a continuous supply of edible leaves, successional sowings can be made every few weeks until mid August. A late summer/early autumn sowing can provide leaves in winter, though the plants might require some protection in very cold winters.
Young leaves - raw or cooked. A distinct strongly spicy flavour, the taste is best from fast, well-grown plants.
Flowers - raw. A similar taste to the leaves, they make a nice garnish on the salad bowl. The seed yields a semi-drying oil which is edible if stored 6 months and is a substitute for rapeseed oil. It contains 32% fat, 27% protein. It is known as 'jamba oil'.
A mustard is obtained from the seed, the strong flavour comes from an essential oil that is contained within the oil of the seed. The pungency of mustard develops when cold water is added to the ground-up seed - an enzyme (myrosin) acts on a glycoside (sinigrin) to produce a sulphur compound. The reaction takes 10 - 15 minutes. Mixing with hot water or vinegar, or adding salt, inhibits the enzyme and produces a mild bitter mustard.