Rocket, salad rocket

Whether in salads, soups or on spicy flatbreads: With its nutty, slightly pungent flavor, arugula or salad rocket is on everyone’s lips.

  • Top article
  • Origin
  • Appearance and growth
  • Location and soil
  • Crop rotation and mixed culture
  • Sowing
  • Maintenance
  • Harvest and utilization
  • Variety tips
  • Propagation
  • Diseases and pests
  • Frequently asked questions
  • More items

Real salad rocket (Eruca sativa)

Origin

In Germany, arugula (Eruca sativa) is also known as salad rocket or mustard rocket. It belongs to the cruciferous family (Brassicaceae) and is cultivated annually. The rocket originates from the Mediterranean area and was already with the Romans a popular salad and seasoning plant. They probably brought the arugula to Germany in ancient times, but the vegetable was soon forgotten here with the retreat of the Romans. It was only with the increasing popularity of Italian cuisine that arugula was also rediscovered by Germans.

Especially the young arugula leaves are used for salads, because the older ones with their sharpness are more suitable for seasoning. mustard oil glycosides are responsible for its characteristic nutty, pungent taste. Arugula is rich in folic acid, vitamin B and the minerals potassium and calcium.

Appearance and growth

Arugula has slightly hairy, pinnately lobed leaves that are somewhat reminiscent of dandelion and radish leaves. The annual plants grow 10 to 50 centimeters high. They germinate and grow quite rapidly and are usually ready to harvest after six weeks.

Location and soil

Mustardweed prefers humus-rich, sandy to loamy soil in full sun. Sufficient moisture is important, as arugula roots quite shallowly. It is not as demanding as most other cabbage plants in terms of its nutrient requirements.

Crop rotation and mixed cropping

As a cruciferous plant, arugula should not be sown on beds previously occupied by cabbage plants. Because of its short growing season and small space requirements, arugula is usually a gap filler and can be placed in single rows among carrots, onions and other slow-growing vegetables, for example.

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Sowing

Outdoors, you can sow arugula continuously from April to September as needed. When preparing the bed, loosen the soil deeply and rake about two liters of sifted mature compost per square meter flat into the soil. Mustard seed is sown in rows in seed grooves about one centimeter deep. Between the rows you should leave at least 15, better 20 centimeters distance. After sowing, close the groove with the back of the rake, lightly tap the soil and water each row thoroughly. If you sow already in April, you should cover the sowing area with fleece, because arugula needs a certain soil warmth for germination – for optimal germination the soil should be at least ten degrees Celsius warm. At a temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius, the first harvest is possible six weeks later.

You can sow arugula as early as March in a cold frame or greenhouse or on a windowsill in pots – at the right temperatures, the mustard greens will be ready for harvesting after just four weeks.

Arugula seedlings

Sowing on the windowsill is possible as early as March

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Caring for arugula

Arugula needs adequate water above all else, as the leaves quickly become too pungent during prolonged dry spells. Also, the soil must be regularly hoed and kept free of weeds. If you have sown the seeds very densely, you should separate the seedlings to a distance of about two to three centimeters. An additional fertilization is not necessary, because the salad rocket is a weak grower. If you grow it later in the year after other strong or medium growers, you can do without compost before sowing it.

Harvesting and utilization

After four to six weeks, when the leaves are about ten centimeters long, you can harvest arugula. Do not wait too long with the harvest, because the young leaves still contain relatively little mustard oil glycosides and therefore taste the best. Cut off the leaves about three inches above the soil – this way you can harvest arugula up to three times, because enough new leaves will grow back. Once the plants form inflorescences, the leaves usually become too pungent to use as a salad. But you can dry the older leaves, chop them up and use them as a condiment for pizza and Mediterranean meat dishes.

Prepare the freshly harvested arugula leaves best immediately. If this is ever not possible, you can store the arugula by wrapping it in a damp cloth and placing it in the refrigerator, for example. This way the leaves will keep for about two to three days. But if you have so many leaves that this time is not enough to consume them, you can freeze arugula and then use it, for example, well for soups.

Tip: In warm dishes, especially on flatbread or pizza, the arugula leaves taste best if you add them just before serving, because longer heating can volatilize the flavor-giving essential oils. In addition, arugula can be made into pesto.

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