Rocket, GardenBotanical Name: Hesperis matronalis
Family: N.O. Cruciferae
Synonyms: Eruca sativa. Dame's Rocket. White Rocket. Purple Rocket. Rucchette. Roquette. Dame's Violet. Vesper-Flower.
Part Used: Whole plant.
Habitat: Central Europe.
Description: These biennial plants are natives of Italy, but are found throughout most of Central and Mediterranean Europe, and in Britain and Russian Asia as escapes from gardens. The stems are very erect, and grow from 2 to 3 feet in height, with spearshaped, pointed leaves. The flowers, white purple, or variegated, are produced in a simple thyrse at the top of the stalk. Johnson wrote of a double-white variety in 1633. The Siberian Rocket is almost identical. The seeds are like those of mustard, but larger.
The leaves are very acrid in taste, and in many countries, especially in Germany, they are eaten like cress in salads.
In the language of flowers, the Rocket has been taken to represent deceit, since it gives out a lovely perfume in the evening, but in the daytime has none. Hence its name of Hesperis, or Vesper-Flower, given it by the Ancients.
For eating purposes, the plant should be gathered before flowering, but for medicinal use, when in flower.
Constituents: The properties of the cultivated Rocket resemble those of the Cochlearea, but its taste is less acrid and piquant.
Medicinal Action and Uses: In former days doctors combined with poets in attributing marvellous virtues to this plant. It is regarded principally as antiscorbutic.
A strong dose will cause vomiting, and may be taken in the place of ipecacuanha. Powdered, the effect is less strong than that of mustard.
Other Species: The Sea-Rocket or Cakile maritima, Eruca marina, often found on sandhills, is very acrid, and can be used as an antiscorbutic, being prescribed in scrofulous affections, lymphatic disturbances, and the malaise that follows malaria. It is important not to confuse it with the real Rocket.