The forbidden Eruca sativa: rocket

Plot 51 Rocket

The rocket is on its way.

The English common name, rocket is an edible annual plant and derives from the French roquette, a diminutive of the Latin word eruca, which designated an unspecified plant in the Brassicaceae family (probably a type of cabbage). A pungent, leafy green vegetable resembling a longer-leaved and open lettuce, rocket is rich in vitamin C and potassium. As well as the leaves, the flowers, young seed pods and mature seeds are all edible.

Grown as an edible herb in the Mediterranean area since Roman times, it was mentioned by various classical authors as an aphrodisiac, most famously in Virgil’s poem, Moretum, which contains the line, “et veneris revocans eruca morantuem” (“the rocket excites the sexual desire of drowsy people”). Some writers assert that for this reason during the Middle Ages it was forbidden to grow rocket in monasteries. It was listed, however, in a decree by Charlemagne of 802 as one of the pot herbs suitable for growing in gardens.

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