PLANTS WITH A PURPOSE
The quiet green that rocks your salad
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.