Ingredients of the week: rocket and strawberries

While they may be portals to the kind of fresh, sprightly dishes we love at this warm time of year, there’s more to them than first meets the eye...

ROCKET

Rocket science

There are two species of this plant – there’s the rocket we’ve all become so used to eating, and there’s wild rocket, the kind we’re not quite so accustomed to (but in recent years have begun to love in pestos). Both belong to the Brassicaceae family, with the difference being the way they grow – rocket is an annual plant (this means it has a yearly growth pattern, then dies) while wild rocket is a perennial plant, meaning it grows for longer than a two-year cycle.

Super sub

Rocket is one of the most nutrient-dense and beneficial salad leaves around. It’s also versatile, perfect for tagging in to replace other ingredients, meaning we can get our fill at a moment’s notice. Think rocket instead of basil in a caprese salad, as part of a morning smoothie that might typically feature spinach, or, with its peppery flavour, as a straight swap for watercress.

Say it again

In the same way the world can’t quite agree on whether we should all say coriander or cilantro, aubergine or eggplant, rocket goes by many different names. One man’s rocket is another’s arugula; an Italian pizzeria might use what it calls rucola, while French restaurants often opt for roquette.


STRAWBERRIES

Not berry logical

Contrary to linguistic sense, life experience and every kind of logic, the strawberry isn’t a berry. Just like its cousins the blackberry and raspberry, it’s an aggregate accessory fruit. This means the flesh of the strawberry comes not from the plant’s ovaries, but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries.

King of the hull

A member of the rose family Rosaceae, strawberries are very much the prized picking from the fruit world. They’re pretty to look at, lovely and aromatic and juicy and they have an enduring affinity with sweet flavours. But should we always focus so much on this final point? Must we wait so late in the meal to enjoy the fruits of this offering from nature?

Flavour profile

Consider a few of the ingredients strawberries are sometimes paired with at dessert: the spicy crack of black pepper; floral herbs such as basil and mint, even rosemary and thyme. So taking this a step further into the land of the savoury really isn’t too much of a leap of faith. All the fruit needs is produce that will play off its sweetness. That’s why strawberries work perfectly with salty feta and olives, get along so well with slightly acidic tomatoes, and act as a revelation in a salsa for chilli-flecked sea bass tortillas.