The quiet green that rocks your salad

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - WORDS JENNY SOMERVELL

two cups of rocket is a lot of vi­ta­mins and an­tiox­i­dants, and just 10 calo­ries

You can al­most over­look rocket when it’s hid­den amongst mild, crunchy mesclun greens.

Un­til you strike that sud­den pep­pery ‘bite’. At least, that’s how I dis­cov­ered it. It gives the biter pause.

In my teenage years, rocket was un­heard of. Like many in­ter­est­ing new greens, it came sneak­ing in on the salad revo­lu­tion in the mid-1980s, wisely ap­pear­ing un­der­cover at first in the guise of mesclun greens.

Forty-plus years later, rocket is in­dis­pens­able in my gar­den as a cool weather green and a mesclun salad is not the same with­out it. It adds a sharp, pi­quant spice which en­livens milder greens like let­tuce. It is the ‘pep­per’ and ‘nutty’ com­ple­ment to the bit­terneu­tral-sweet flavour mix.

But you don’t need to con­fine rocket to sal­ads. Like other leafy greens, it can be in­cor­po­rated into pas­tas, casseroles, and sauces, adding the same (or greater) nu­tri­tional ben­e­fits, but with more flavour. Rocket will sauté faster than its tougher cousins kale and col­lard greens be­cause of its ten­der­ness. It adds a de­li­cious bite added on top of pizza, Ital­ian-style, af­ter cook­ing.

The Ital­ians love rocket (ru­cola or arugula). They have used it for two mil­len­nia and have never seen a rea­son to di­lute its pep­pery bite. A spring treat is a salad of rocket dressed solely with ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, salt and le­mon wedges for squeez­ing over the leaves.

Why it’s one of the su­per­food he­roes

Rocket may be renowned for its bite, but it’s also in the top 20 foods for its Ag­gre­gate Nu­tri­ent Den­sity In­dex score. This mea­sures the vi­ta­min, min­eral and phy­tonu­tri­ent con­tent rel­a­tive to calo­rie con­tent.

Two cups (40g) of rocket – ad­mit­tedly quite a bit – will pro­vide 20 per­cent of your vi­ta­min A, over 50 per­cent of vi­ta­min K, and 8 per­cent of vi­ta­min C, fo­late and cal­cium needs for the day, plus it’s rich in an­tiox­i­dants. All this in just a minis­cule 10 calo­ries.

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