Rocket is a leaf vegetable. The leaves are at their best when they are young and tender, but as they get older the flavour becomes stronger and, when they are roughly chopped, give a strong peppery, slightly lemony taste. It has been grown in the Mediterranean since Roman times and has grown in popularity as a salad green in this country since the mid-1990s. Although it is available all year round, the season runs from the end of April.
Rocket is more commonly found in salads, but it can be added to some baked goods and can be exchanged with, or added to watercress, which has a similar peppery flavour. Chop roughly before use because the stalks can become stringy when cooked and add to flans with goat’s cheese or feta cheese. Put in cheese cornbreads in much the same way you would add chopped herbs. Rocket can also be used instead of basil in pesto, which can be drizzled over focaccia just before it is put in the oven to bake. Mix chopped rocket with olives and sun-dried tomatoes to add to breads or savoury muffins. It also goes well with fish and so can be used as an herb, instead of tarragon or dill, with salmon en croute.
Season: end of April - mid-October
Fiona Burrell, co-author of Leiths Baking Bible, from the world-famous Leiths School of Food and Wine