Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Remarkable Rocket ~ a truly versatile vegetable

It has been suggested to me that the salad vegetable, rocket, is so named because of the speed at which it grows. This could be so, as it certainly does grow prolifically and at an astonishing rate. Here you can see a fresh crop coming up in the centre foreground where I crumbled some seed heads not so long ago; it's mixed with parsley and flanked by marigolds, chives, and the rather spindly remains of a silver beet plant:

This vege patch is rather small and I've decided that in future I'll only attempt to put a row of anything in at the back, which is at present occupied by tomato vines, and simply scatter seed and some seedlings over the rest of it. I've wasted loads of growing time waiting for rows of veges to 'finish' so I could plant the next row, and given my tendency to leave taking things out rather longer than is practical I think I'll get greater production this way!

We use a lot of parsley and rocket, so there is never too much of it, and the crowded seedlings wont be crowded for long, which is just as well as they will soon have 'proper' leaves.  You can see a more advanced plant here:

The mauve-flowered plant at the left is catnip which is popular with the local cats as well as being the favoured destination of many bees. After it has died down in winter our little cat, Louisa, likes to sit on its remains! I hasten to add that this area is well away from the vege patch. Rocket seems to grow easily anywhere.

It's such a tasty salad green. If one is in any doubt as to it's identity, this can instantly be resolved by breaking a piece which will release its distinctive tangy aroma. This mouth-watering smell is part of what makes it so tasty!

Even the flowers are edible, and have a pleasantly nutty flavour.  I'm reluctant to eat flowers at the best of times as it always seems like eating the plant's face (!), but you may find these contribute something special to your meal or snack so I encourage you to give them a try:

Most people know this plant only as a salad green, whereas it's delicious cooked, in stews or casseroles, in place of parsley, or simply steamed. Occasionally if it's been very slow growing it can be a little bitter and stalky, but this isn't usual and I must say I prefer it to silver beet or spinach. I discovered this one winter when our silver beet plants were not producing well and it became our main cooked green. You might enjoy it too.

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