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Eruca sativa

Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand


Rocket is a leafy salad green that is also sometimes known by its Italian name, arugula.

It’s only in recent years that rocket has made inroads into becoming a popular salad green. But in the last 10 years, it’s appeared on more and more café and restaurant plates, as well as in supermarkets.

Rocket has a peppery flavour, and is usually part of mesclun, which is just a mix of baby salad leaves and can include endive, watercress, baby beet leaves, and others.

Rocket is a good source of vitamin C, iron, and calcium.

Store rocket in the fridge for a couple of days, but eat as close to purchase as possible as it doesn’t keep well.



Rocket originates from the Mediterranean. It featured strongly in Roman meals as a salad green, while the seeds were used to flavour olive oil. In the first century AD, the seeds were also used as an aphrodisiac.


Apart from being used in salads, rocket is often used in Italy on pizza. It’s also used to garnish raw meat dishes such as carpaccio.

If you don’t have enough basil, you can use rocket to make pesto instead: blend three or four handfuls of rocket, 50g toasted pine nuts, a clove of garlic (or more if you like), and grated parmesan or pecorino cheese to taste, then gradually add olive oil until you reach a consistency you like. Use the pesto immediately, or store in the fridge in jars, making sure you cover the pesto with oil so it doesn’t brown.


In Egypt, rocket is often eaten for breakfast with ful medames, a popular dish made with fava, or broad, beans.

On the island of Ischia near Naples, they make a sweet, peppery digestive alcohol from rocket, known as rucolino. It’s usually drunk in small quantities after a meal, in the same way as in other areas they have limoncello or grappa.

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