Fruit and Vegetables

Rucola - Eruca sativa

Rucola - Eruca sativa

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Rocket salad

The rocket, Eruca sativa, is a type of salad. For a long time it has been almost forgotten, only to be very popular in recent decades. In the kitchen it finds many uses and combinations, especially when we want to give our dishes a slightly bitter and spicy taste. For this reason we can safely say that it can no longer be missing among the crops of a home garden.
You can assign a small area by inserting even just a few specimens since, as a rule, it is not over-used and the plants, if well positioned, develop vigorously, guaranteeing the quantities required in the family without difficulty.
L'Estra sativa (also called ruchetta) is an annual herbaceous plant, widely used in many recipes. About 50 cm high, it has leaves gathered in a basal rosette and ascending or erect stems. The flowers are gathered in racemes and have a yellow crown composed of four petals. The fruits are siliques that contain numerous seeds.


The rocket does not present particular problems of cultivation, and it grows well in all types of soil. The more the soil is arid, the more spicy the leaves become and have a thick foil.
The cultivation of this type of salad is very simple and it is difficult to find problems.
It needs quite frequent irrigations, especially in summer or where the climate is particularly hot and dry. It is therefore good to intervene whenever the substrate appears dry on the surface, especially if the plant grows in contact with overheated surfaces, such as the floors of balconies, terraces or window sills.
In the open ground, to always keep the substratum fresh, it is good to mulch the base with a thick layer of straw or leaves (or use plastic films at the time of planting, thus also avoiding the occurrence of pests).
Moreover, frequent irrigations help to postpone the birth of flower stems.
It is extremely important to intervene every time eliminating them at the base. As the season progresses, in fact, they stimulate the lignification of the base. Moreover it is good to immediately control the production of the seeds as the Eruca sativa, in a favorable environment, is capable of becoming highly invasive and, in the long run, a very unpleasant host.
If you want we can, towards August, let go only a few stems in order to be able to reproduce our plants independently in the coming year.

The rocket in short
height Up to 30 cm
width Up to 50 cm
foliage From light green to medium green, deciduous.

type of plant
Herbaceous or semi-woody, annual
culture easy
irrigations Abundant and frequent
growth rapid
propagation sowing
germination 5 days
Resistance to cold Very rustic
exposure Sun-shade
type of soil Adaptable, however, it likes rich, clayey and slightly humid, neutral or alkaline soils
placement In the open ground or in medium-large vessels


It can be sown from March to September, but the best time is spring (it is sown directly at home). We advise you to sow in several months of the year so as to always have fresh leaves available.


To be harvested the leaves must be fairly developed, but the stem must be completely empty. The leaves must be used fresh, and can be stored by freezing them.

History and characteristics

Rocket has been known since ancient times. Probably it is native to the Mediterranean basin, in particular South Italy and Greece. It was already known by the Romans who used it to give taste, both raw and cooked, to their vegetable-based dishes. The seeds of this plant were also used to produce an essential oil, very popular for massages.
Given its intense and spicy flavor it was considered one of the most aphrodisiac foods and was therefore given the power to combat infertility. Thus it became a dish much appreciated by men.
With the advent of the Middle Ages, however, this prejudice caused the almost absolute banishment from the vegetable gardens of the convents.
Until a few decades ago this oblivion persisted, until when I began again to be used to enhance all foods with a delicate flavor (such as raw meat, cheese, eggs).
From a health point of view we can say that it is a good help to increase the intake of vitamin C, of ​​minerals, such as potassium, iron, calcium and phosphorus. She is credited with good digestive, diuretic and the ability to help the liver in its functions.

The calendar of the rocket
Sowing and planting From March to September
flowering From April to September
collection From May to November

Exposure and rocket soil

The rocket likes sunny or slightly shady exposures. This can be of benefit to you especially in summer, in the Center-South or if you are growing it in pots (perhaps on a tiled balcony where the reverberation is very strong).
We can decide to cultivate it both in the garden and in an aromatic corner. It grows quite well even in medium-large sized pots.
In any case, it particularly likes the proximity of asparagus and all the crucifers.
However, it is a plant that greatly depletes the soil and therefore it is advisable to move its location every year, otherwise very poor results will be obtained.
The ideal soil must be rich in organic matter, capable of retaining moisture, but at the same time well aerated and draining.
For the pot generally all the soils for flowering plants are good: the ideal is however to mix at least a 30% of garden soil and some handful of well decomposed flour manure. On the bottom of the pot it is always important to prepare a good draining layer based on gravel or expanded clay.

How to get seedlings?

If we want to cultivate the rocket we can choose whether to buy in a nursery of seedlings or dedicate ourselves to sowing ourselves. The second choice, especially in the family environment, is almost always preferable because usually the trays of seedlings sold contain at least nine plants that would be too many (given the long season of production and always vigorous growth), forcing us to immediately throw away some or work too unnecessarily later.

Rocket seeding

We can decide to sow directly in the open field or in alveolar trays or small jars. This salad absolutely does not fear transplants.
To get the best results it is good to add a little sand to the soil to avoid the onset of mold. We distribute the seeds trying to keep them rather distant (or put at most two for each alveolus). We cover lightly with fine soil (or agricultural vermiculite). We vaporize abundantly and cover with a transparent plastic film. Let's place in a bright area but where there is no direct sun and remember to vaporize at least once a day (keeping the environment always humid), but we also ventilate with a certain frequency.
Germination usually occurs within 5 days. Later we will have to select the seedlings and engage in frequent topping that will stimulate the bushy growth.
Reached 15 cm in height, the plants are ready to be definitively planted.

Rocket collection

Arugula can generally be harvested 5-8 weeks after sowing. The leaves are cut at ground level in the quantity we desire. The plant is usually vigorously rejects.
The younger leaves are the more tender and generally have a more delicate taste.
If desired, we can preserve them by freezing them, then use them as an aromatic or to create a good pesto of rocket, particular but appetizing.

Pests and diseases

The rocket is a rather resistant plant. However, some beetles that feed on its leaves fear particularly. If they were to appear they could be fought using insecticides based on pyrethrins or pyrethroids, always respecting deficiency times before picking the leaves again.

Variety of rocket

Broadly speaking, both in horticulture and for sale as a ready-to-eat product, there are only two types of rocket, the wild one (with fine and deeply carved leaves), and the cultivated one (with wider leaves and lance-shaped leaves). The latter differs for a less pungent taste.
Here is a more comprehensive picture of the most common varieties.

typologySpecies or cultivararomaOther characteristics
Cultivated rocket Eruca sativa Taste more delicate than the wild one
The most widespread on the market
Very vigorous

Roquette sauvage
Diplotaxis erucoides Strongly spicy taste Also called false rocket
It has narrower leaves and grows more slowly than selected varieties.
Diplotaxis tenuifolia Bitter and spicy flavor The leaves are a beautiful dark green, long and slender.
Very rustic and vigorous, it is self-disseminated with great ease.
'Verdiana' Taste more delicate than the species Leaves lanceolate, arrives early to production, but also to seed
With olive leaf Fresh flavor like that of watercress Leaves elongated and not carved

Rucola - Eruca sativa: Rocket in the kitchen

Rocket can be used in both raw and cooked cooking. In salads it is generally combined with other leafy vegetables such as lettuces, radicchio and valerian. It also goes well with boiled potatoes (perhaps making a warm salad using sour cream as a sauce).
Some classic combinations are those with fresh cheeses (stracchino, primosale, tomini or even small pieces of ricotta) and those with very thin raw meats (the so-called "carpaccio"). In the latter case the ideal is to make it marry with very thin flakes of grain that will make it all more appetizing.
It can be used to make a pesto very similar to the Genoese one, where the whole or part of the basil is replaced by the rocket.
Cotta is excellent in combination with spinach and chard, but can also be used as a condiment for pasta (for example in combination with very tasty fish such as anchovies or sardines).
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