Discovering our food: the rocket or arugula

Hello my dear readers,

So far I guess you have noticed that I’m a food lover and I eat pretty much everything.

Today I want to share with you another of my favourite veggies.

Today let’s discover a very aromatic leafy vegetable: the rocket or also known as arugula.

Today let’s discover:

What is arugula and where does it come from?

Origins and history of arugula

Arugula varieties

How to cultivate arugula

Arugula: what is it and where does it come from?

We find it in salads, pancakes, and in many other dishes.

Who would not recognize the aromatic and slightly spicy taste of arugula, known also as rocket, at the first taste? Good to eat, versatile in the kitchen and rich in beneficial properties, it is a herbaceous herb with multiple virtues that can also be grown easily.

Rocket has a very rich history, which has its origins from the Mediterranean basin and western Asia. 

An annual herbaceous plant that was adored by the ancient Romans, who attributed it aphrodisiac properties and preferred to use it mainly for medicinal, rather than food, purposes.

Arugula is a low calorie leafy vegetable and due to its slightly bitter taste it is well suited for the preparation of aperitifs; it has a good content in vitamin C, but also in calcium and iron.

The leafy green is very popular in Italian cuisine and is grown and eaten all around the world.

Origin and history

A bit of history 

Rocket is a plant native to the Mediterranean and central-western Asia area and it was already known and appreciated by both the Greeks and the Romans.

Dioscorides, a Greek doctor and pharmacist, attributed to the rocket digestive properties, while in ancient Rome rocket was mainly used for the preparation of love filters: for this purpose it was cultivated on lands that housed phallic statues created to honor Priapus, god of fertility and a protector of gardens, fruit plants, livestock and male genitals.

Precisely because of these presumed virtues, during the Middle Ages it was prevented from cultivating in monasteries as according to legend some monks after drinking a rocket-based liqueur abandoned the vow of chastity because they could no longer keep their senses at bay.

Rocket has grown mainly in central-western Asia and in the Mediterranean basin but given its fame and goodness, nowadays, it is also cultivated a lot in the Italian region of Veneto, in the north of America, in India and in the north of Europe, growing in soils that are both sandy and fertile, reaching 800 meters above sea level. In India, arugula seeds are known by the name of Gargeer.

Arugula (Eruca Sativa), is a leafy vegetable belonging to the Cruciferous family, same as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts, that grows spontaneously in the Mediterranean area. It is easily found in all types of terrain up to 800 meters latitude.

Arugula can be easily grown. Its dark green leaves have an intense, acidic and very aromatic flavour.

It seems that the name ‘arugula’ derives from the Latin term eruca which means ‘to burn’, perhaps inspired by the pungent and spicy taste of this leafy vegetable. 

In more distant times, moreover, this plant was considered a natural aphrodisiac and used in the form of a decoction to combat impotence.

Arugula varieties

The two most common types are the cultivated one (Eruca sativa) and the wild one (Diplotaxix tenuifolia). Both belong to the same family to which cabbage, radishes and cauliflowers belong and although they are often confused they have different organoleptic characteristics.

The spontaneous or wild variety is a perennial herb and has a much stronger flavour. It produces yellow flowers and elongated notched leaves.Β 

The cultivated one is an annual variety, it has more rounded leaves, white flowers and a decidedly more delicate flavour.

Rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins, arugula is also one of the most used leafy veggies in the kitchen for the preparation of salads.

Furthermore, with very few precautions, it is possible to grow it both in the garden and in pots to obtain the first harvest in a few weeks. Let’s see how.

Rocket cultivation

Growing rocket in pots or in the garden is really simple. It is a rustic plant with a rapid life cycle that gives the first leaves a few weeks after sowing.

The best time for sowing is in spring. The harvest usually takes place after 30-40 days and continues until late autumn. The seeds must be planted just 1 centimetre deep from the ground surface.

To successfully grow this plant you just need to ensure a good water supply, a drained soil and a shelter from cold and bad weather.

Those who don’t have a lot of space can successfully grow it even in small containers. The only precaution is not to sow it too tightly. In fact, it is necessary to leave enough space to irrigate the soil without wetting the leaves and to prevent the formation of fungal diseases.

After sowing, watering must be frequent but not too abundant. This herb suffers water stagnation and must grow on soft, ventilated and free from stones or weeds soil.

Arugula is a herbaceous plant whose height can reach even very high levels, reaching even 50 cm in height.

The leaves of the arugula have a green colour, the shape of which is very similar to that of a spear, elongated towards the tip, with indented margins.

Its leaves can be harvested once the plant has reached 7-8 cm in length. It begins by cutting the leaves near the collar and continues 5-6 times for the rest of the growing season.

The flavour of this plant depends on the soil in which it is grown and also on the period in which it is born, obviously the more arid the soil the flavour will be strong, decisive and intense, especially if the harvest is late.

It grows well in full sun as in light shade, provided it is sheltered from the winds. In ideal climatic conditions, plants maintain vegetation even in winter.

I’m waiting for the lockdown to be eased and I’m planning to buy some more pots and hopefully I’ll find also some rocket seeds so that I can grow my own πŸ˜‰ 🌱

If you like its particular taste you can do it too πŸ˜‰ and try bresaola, rucola e grana, believe me it’s super delicious, you’ll ask for more and more and more πŸ˜‰ Will share with you more about this in the next post.

Join me next time and let’s see how to use the arugula in our kitchens and what are its benefits and contraindications if any.

Stay tuned!

And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts.

Thank you all for reading!

See you next time!

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I love traveling, cooking and enjoying this beatiful world.Β 
I’m a life lover! Simple as that!

40 thoughts

  1. Thanks for another wonderful article! I love arugula, almost always have it in my refrigerator all year since our local farm where I have my winter CSA grows it all year long! I love its peppery flavor, and rarely make a salad without it.

  2. I’m a good lover too and that’s why I love reading your blog! I wouldn’t be able to imagine my life without rocket. I might try to grow it next year 😊 Aiva

    1. Thank you Aiva! Oh yes, rocket always give a distinctive flavor to anything πŸ˜‰
      Being able to grow it yourself is even better and always ready to use fresh πŸ˜‰

      1. Haha thanks for such sweet compliment Ribby but believe me, a war broke before that happened. haha πŸ˜€ In the beginning he refuse anything so I had to insist he tried everything first before saying no, I guess we’re lucky he listen most of the time now

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