Rucola - Eruca sativa


The rocket is one of the most used and common herbs in the world; in fact two plants are called with the common name rucola, one is the so-called cultivated rocket, Eruca sativa, the other is instead a wild plant, Diplotaxis tenuifolia. In the first case it is a horticultural plant, originating in Europe and Asia; diplotaxis is instead a small wild plant, very common in the Mediterranean area. Both are commonly called rocket, due to the fact that they have a very similar taste.
In the first case we have a small annual plant, which must be re-sown every year, to climb, starting from the month of April May; in the second one it is a perennial, which if not eradicated will appear luxuriant every year in our vegetable garden or garden.
The leaves are consumed, rich in vitamin C and mineral salts; rocket leaves contain an intensely scented essential oil with a pungent taste; this oil is volatile, and does not resist in small dried or frozen leaves, for this reason, if you want to consume the rocket leaves, it is necessary to collect them just before eating them.
The ease of cultivation of rocket leaves allows to find available fresh leaves on the market practically all year long.

How to grow it

It is a very simple cultivated leaf vegetable; just a piece of land, well worked and fertilized, on which to sow the small dark seeds; we will water abundantly and collect the leaves by cutting them at the base. The continuous consumption, and the consequent smoothing of the rocket lawn, makes the possibility of harvesting very prolonged over time. In fact, over time small plants can begin to create thin stems, and small yellow flowers; during and after flowering the rocket leaves become excessively coriaceous, and less valuable than the young leaves. For this reason, more plots of rocket are usually prepared, which are sown to climb; as soon as the foliage begins to grow too much, or we see the presence of small flowers, the plot is reworked, to prepare it for a subsequent sowing. During the winter months the cultivated rocket can be sown in a greenhouse, even if, without heating, the production times of the leaves for our salads will be dilated.


Besides being an excellent leaf vegetable, with an intense flavor, excellent in salads, the rocket is also a herb that is used in herbal medicine; it is used as an antiscorbutic, given the high amount of vitamin C it contains; It is useful as a tonic, to promote appetite, to improve digestion, to purify the liver.
Infusions and decoctions are also prepared, although it is good to mix it with other aromatic herbs, such as mint or lemon balm, as the flavor of the infused leaves may not be pleasant.

Rucola - Eruca sativa: The rocket in the kitchen

The small rocket leaves are mostly used fresh, in salads, or classically with carpaccio; in reality this vegetable is very versatile and can be used both raw and cooked. With the rocket for example, we prepare an excellent pesto, very aromatic, mixing the chopped leaves with excellent extra virgin olive oil; the dense sauce thus obtained is used to flavor bruschetta or pasta or rice dishes, but also to flavor the summer salad.
There are many traditional recipes in which Rucola is present, now widespread as a salad in most of the western world.
A typical and well known example is
Risotto with Rocket and Taleggio
Ingredients for 4 people
300 g carnaroli rice
150 g rocket
100 g taleggio
1 small onion or 1 shallot
1 l vegetable broth
30 ml white wine
30 g butter
Toast the rice with the onion and butter, when the rice is translucent, blend with the white wine; when the wine is completely evaporated, add the broth a little at a time, bringing the rice to cooking; it will take about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the rocket not too finely and cut the taleggio cheese into pieces, depriving it of the rind.
When the rice is cooked, add about two-thirds of the rocket, and stir constantly.
when the rice is al dente we remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese and the remaining rocket.
Serve after at least a couple of minutes.