Want to add a peppery punch to your salads? Spruce them up with a little rocket (Eruca sativa)! It’s one of the fastest-growing leafy greens, and you can plant it in the garden or in pots. Rocket is best sown in spring or autumn (it can tolerate the cold) and will be ready for harvesting in just six to seven weeks – you can even eat the baby leaves after about two weeks. It tastes best when harvested young, so keep nipping off the leafy growth and you’ll have rich pickings. Its spicy flavour makes it perfect for livening up any salad – simply follow our guide to sowing the seeds, then use a couple of bunches to make the delicious Rocket, Pear and Blue Cheese Salad (see recipe, below).
How to sow rocket seeds
Step 1 Choose a spot in your garden that’s sunny and make sure soil is well draining. Before you plant rocket seeds, dig in some fine compost and a little fertiliser to prepare soil.
Step 2 Mark out a row about 3mm deep and 1-2m long. Carefully sow rocket seeds in a thin line along row, spacing out
as evenly as possible. Cover lightly with seed raising mix (available in bags), then press down and keep soil moist. Planting seeds every few weeks will ensure you have a continuous supply.
Step 3 Fertilise weekly with a complete liquid plant food such as Yates Thrive Soluble All Purpose Plant Food or Seasol PowerFeed for Vegies.
Step 4 Cut back plants to ground level once they’re full sized – about 7-8 weeks after planting. This encourages new shoots to grow. Feed again with a liquid fertiliser to promote vigorous growth and more harvests.
You can plant the seeds in pots and transplant them to the garden when they reach 5-7cm. Remember to label the pots, though, in case you forget what’s in there!
This easy-grow leafy salad green is also known as arugula, Italian cress and roquette.
Rocket, pear and blue cheese salad
Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: nil
2 Williams or Packham pears, cored, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
Sea-salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to season
2 bunches (280g) rocket, trimmed
¼ cup walnuts, toasted,
150g blue cheese, diced
Step 1 Put pear and lemon juice in a large bowl and toss to coat.
Step 2 To make dressing, put oil, vinegar and honey in a jar. Secure with a lid and shake to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Step 3 Separate rocket leaves and put in a large bowl. Add pear, walnut and blue cheese. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat. Divide among plates and serve.