What are they on about?

6th July 2001 at 01:00
David Newnham gets blinded by rocket science

I came late to rocket. I'm sorry, but in the beginning I just didn't like it. And so when all the clever people were garnishing every dish with what looked to me like dandelion leaves, I stuck with tried and tested lettuce.

And now, old Johnnie-come-lately can't get enough of the stuff. Along with all the other drones, I buy it in my local supermarket and kid myself I am being metropolitan.

My guess is that the truly trendy stopped eating rocket years ago, and that even in my remote neck of the woods the allure of this once-fashionable leaf is deemed to have somewhat wilted. How else would you explain the arrival on the shelves of "wild rocket"?

Wild rocket, like wild rice and wild mushrooms, is probably what they call a "premium product", which means, of course, that it costs more. At pound;1.49 for a pack, three-quarters of which is made up of some other kind of leaf, it could certainly cost less.

But you get what you pay for, and this rocket is wild after all (it's also "washed and ready to eat", but we don't want to get too wild, do we now?) Wild, almost by definition, means untamed, unpredictable and generally difficult - which sounds just the job for the palate jaded by a surfeit of tame rocket.

If it's expensive, that's almost certainly because some unfortunate has to go out with a mule and catch it. I can see them now, stumbling up a boulder-strewn path, stuffing the "dark green fiddle-shaped leaves" into a dark brown basket-shaped basket while glancing over their shoulder lest some keen-eyed TV documentary-maker finger them for illegally harvesting an endangered plant species in contravention ofI That's a point! Should I really be eating wild rocket? Should the supermarket be dealing in it? But I needn't have worried. "It's called wild rocket," says a spokeswoman when I ring the retailer,"but obviously we cultivate it."

Obviously. How naive of me to have thought otherwise.

Oh well. At least"wild rocket" is stronger and more peppery than the tame varieties, which the lady assures me "have been bred to have a more commercial taste". That's reassuring - unless, of course, she's just blinding me with rocket science.


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