Grow your own rocket

Grow your own rocket because of its sulforaphane, folate and vitamin K.

By Bernard Preston

Grow your own rocket.
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Rocket like most vegetables likes full sun, but then you will have to water it regularly; it wilts very quickly if it is allowed to get too dry. Partial shade is acceptable.

A row a metre long will provide you with a massive amount of greens if planted thickly; if you have the space in your garden spread out the seed more thinly.

Rocket, of course, likes a rich soil with plenty of well-rotted compost to which we always add a little humus from our worm farms; it makes an astonishing difference.

Break up any clods and rake the enriched soil until it is fairly smooth; this is not a herb that you must first set in a seed bed, and then transplant; that I find laborious and it sets the little plants back by several weeks.

Using your garden fork draw out a line about a centimetre deep and drop in the seeds thinly; cover with fine soil and water it in. It is good to dampen the bed each day until the young plants appear.

They grow quickly and in warm weather you will be picking the young leaves within a few weeks. It grows well in a mild winter and will go on bearing for months.

Grow your own rocket

Grow your own rocket because it will give your family fresh greens straight from the garden every day for your daily salad.

That slipped so easily off the nib of my pen, figuratively speaking, but seriously do you have a green salad most days?

One must acknowledge that rocket is a bit of an acquired taste. To begin with use only the young shoots in your salads; as your family becomes accustomed to the flavour you can start adding the older greens which have a stronger taste.

With olive oil, balsamica and feta cheese you will have a salad that will get the tongues of your guests wagging.

Would a rose smell any less sweet by any other name?

So, too rocket by any other name, like arugula, would taste just as good. It was a very commonly used herb in ages past but lost its popularity until more recent times. Now we grow it every year; one more coloured food you can add to your count.

Those who enjoy at least seven different coloured salads and fruits every day, researchers have found have over a 30% lower all cause of death; that's massive. The reasons are complex but because of the anti-inflammatory properties and the richness of the phytochemicals and vitamins we enjoy a greater sense of well-being.

Rocket pesto

Pesto is traditionally made with sweet basil, but a variation try using rocket as the herb. I'm never tied down by a recipe, and differing adventures and experiments are what make for fun in the kitchen.

What is basil will tell your more if you're at loss at how to make rocket pesto.


Your greens like broccoli, cabbage and rocket contain a potent phytochemical called glucoraphanin which has been strongly linked to our well-being; this is the inactive form and the sulphoraphane is only released when the leaves are damaged, producing an enzyme that acts on the compound.

The moral of the story is that your greens need to be chopped and thoroughly chewed to get the full benefit of sulphoraphane.

Sulphoraphane has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the proliferation and uncontrolled growth of cells in tumours.

Population studies have shown that groups of people who enjoy their greens, even just once a week, and in particular those like rocket and broccoli that are rich in glucoraphanin have a statistically significantly reduced risk of tumours. They also have less cardiovascular disease and better digestion. The extra fibre means a happy colon for the massive number of beneficial bacteria that live in the gut.

Did you know that this microbiome, as it's known, has a mass of around 2 kg and more in a happy tum? They make up ten times as many cells as there are in the whole body, contributing vitamins like B12 and a host of important substances like short chain fatty acids; it's a complex subject. Scientists have only examined the tip of the iceberg.

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease remains the chief cause of death. Researchers have shown that it is caused by 'oxidative stress' by reactive chemicals that causes damage to the heart muscle and the lining of blood vessels.

Recent research shows that those greens containing glucoraphanin, producing sulforaphane, give protection against cardiovascular disease by its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Grow your own rocket

If you grow your own rocket, and other greens, of course, it will have a massively beneficial effect on your well-being.

One reads regularly of cooks expounding on a salad that has no lettuce; usually they have substituted a refined starch.

But let's admit that a lettuce and tomato salad is very dull, particularly if the greens are not freshly picked, which they usually aren't. Adding several different herbs like rocket, spring onions, radishes and hummus, for example, is the way to make our meals more appetising.

Often we harvest too much and some is left over; by the next day it looks awful. Don't buy it; grow your own rocket, it's so easy, and enjoy it freshly picked every day.

Often it will seed itself, and come up again next spring.


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Hilton, KZN

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