Peppery little leaves of Irish grown rocket are now in the shops and farm shops.  This soft leaved plant, once regarded as ‘smart’ for the salad plates of those in the know about food, has become a fairly regular ingredient round these parts! But hey, we have secret. Rocket isn’t just for salads!  If you are putting  rocket on your shopping list this weekend, here’s a few tips to make the most of it:

Firstly, try to buy organic/chemical free rocket from a trusted Irish grower. It will have way more taste than pre-washed, ready bagged imported stuff sold in many supermarkets, which suffers from rinsing in a mild bleach solution before being placed in a bag puffed up with a special gas to stop the leaves getting crushed. How appetising is that? Search your local farm shop or farmer’s market for rocket which has been picked freshly from the soil and has nothing extra added.

Use rocket in place of spinach leaves, wilted gently into curries,  or cooked briefly in olive oil and used as a serving ‘bed’ for a piece of pan fried fish.

The Italians love rocket stirred into rich tomato based pasta sauces, or folded into risottos at the end of cooking, which retains the peppery bite.

Use a good handful in a stir fry of chicken or prawns, adding at the last minute so you keep texture and taste intact.

Spicy rocket and watercress sauce is a  great accompaniiment for  barbecued fish.  Whizz plenty of fresh leaves with garlic, grated onion and natural yogurt, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper .

For the adventurous, it’s not too late to grow a bit of your own rocket this summer. This is  a 'cut and come again' crop, meaning the more leaves you use, the more will grow. Just be careful not to plant it somewhere too hot , like a polytunnel, because it tends to grow very fast into a leggy plant and goes to seed quickly.  Best place is a sunny spot outside, and cover the young seedlings with a cloche till they get established, if you don’t want to provide the slugs with a picnic.