Rocket Mixes Up Greens

April 30, 2010

Would you like to try spicing up your salads with a new flavor? If so, rocket may be for you. A member of the Cruciferae or mustard family, Lepidium sativum is known by many common names: cress, garden cress, pepper grass or pepper cress. In Spanish, it’s called arúgula.

This ancient plant comes from Asia Minor, and was mentioned as early as 400 B.C. by the Greek historian Xenophon in reference to how the Persians used it as a staple in their diet. European settlers brought it to the Western Hemisphere, where it adapted well and continues to be grown as a garden green.

In Costa Rica, rocket is most often grown in home gardens and can be difficult to find in markets. However, I was surprised to find arúgula seeds offered in many of San José’s leading seed stores.

Rocket is a hardy, annual plant that grows well in the country’s mid-range and highland regions during the rainy season. In warmer regions, it tends to “bolt” or go to seed rapidly, much like spinach. It grows well in soils with average fertility and often flowers and produces seeds you can use for replanting.

I like to start my seeds in flats in the greenhouse with prepared potting soil to protect them from insect attacks during early stages of growth. When the plants are 5 to 6 centimeters tall, I transplant them to recycled plastic cups with three holes punched in the bottoms and filled with compost soil.

About two weeks later, the young rocket plants are ready to transplant to the garden. Plant them about 30 to 40 cm apart, intermixed with other plants. When the plants are well established, it’s easy to pinch a few of the lower leaves from each plant for salads, which extends the harvest for several months. You’ll find this method of picking garden greens is very practical compared to harvesting the entire plant at one time.

Rocket leaves have a flavor much like mild horseradish. Most folks prefer to add only a few leaves to a salad so the flavor isn’t overpowering. Another way to use the leaves is blended in salad dressings with olive oil, lemon and other spices. In some countries, the leaves are steamed or cooked as a side dish, which neutralizes their pungent taste. As is the case with many greens, you’ll find some people won’t enjoy the taste, while others will relish it. ¡Así es la vida!

 

For more on tropical gardening, contact Ed at thenewdawncenter@yahoo.com.

You may be interested

Honduran opposition protesters take to the streets
Central America
1044 views
Central America
1044 views

Honduran opposition protesters take to the streets

Noe Leiva / AFP - December 15, 2017

Supporters of the leftist opposition in Honduras blocked streets in various cities around that country on Friday, despite political repression,…

Of snow, kindness and Northern Lights: a Costa Rican in Manitoba, Canada
Please Send Coffee!
2089 views
Please Send Coffee!
2089 views

Of snow, kindness and Northern Lights: a Costa Rican in Manitoba, Canada

Gustavo Díaz Cruz - December 14, 2017

My mom named me Gustavo Adolfo. I was born in Puntarenas, next to the sea, but my home was in…

Response to disaster: aid successes, struggles in post-Maria Puerto Rico
Weather
1476 views
Weather
1476 views

Response to disaster: aid successes, struggles in post-Maria Puerto Rico

John McPhaul - December 13, 2017

As Costa Rica joins many other nations in looking back upon the horrendous 2017 hurricane season, longtime Tico Times contributor…