Common Name: Turkish Rocket, Hill Mustard, Turkish Warty Cabbage, Warty Cabbage
Scientific Name: Bunias orientalis
Family: Brassicaceae (the Crucifers or Mustard family)
Turkish Rocket is a perennial broccoli-like plant with a stronger, cabbage flavor and a tenacious grip to life. It is very easy to grow, and once established, it usually will not quit. Because of this, it is dubbed in invasive weed in some parts of the world. It has tasty edible leaves and edible flowering stems (like broccoli, which it is related). It is drought-tolerant with a deep taproot that mines moisture and minerals, attracts beneficial insects, and can be used as an animal fodder. This is a great, herbaceous addition to our Permaculture projects.
I can find very little on the history of this plant. This plant originated in Southern Russia and the Caucasus region which stretches south into northeastern Turkey. It is reported to have spread through Europe by Russian troops chasing after Napolean’s retreating army (it was used to feed the Russian horses). It has also beed reported to have been spread when the Russian empress sent grain seed to Sweden during a famine, but the grain contained many Turkish Rocket seeds. It is now naturalized across Europe and in some parts of North America.
- Turkish Rocket is in the Brassica family which includes Mustards, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Turnip, Radishes, etc.
- Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis) is not the same as Salad Rocket (Eruca sativa). I have found a few websites that are selling “Turkish Rocket” but show Salad Rocket. Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables, also reports that they are often mistaken for each other, but the seeds are quite different.
- Turkish Rocket seeds are large and bumpy and about the size of a peppercorn. Salad Rocket seeds are small and smooth.
USING THIS PLANT
- Edible Leaves – Raw or cooked. Can be used like Kale or Collard Greens. Young leaves are best for eating raw. Leaves can be “hairy”, and some people say they are “indigestable”, but I have not experienced that. When raw, they have a pungent, mustardy-broccoli flavor. They can be finely chopped and added to salads to add a bit of “bite” to the salad. Many people prefer them cooked – they are quite good and a bit more mild. Larger leaves are almost always cooked. I don’t mind them either way, but I also like strongly flavored vegetables.
- Edible Stems – Raw or cooked. Mainly the very young and thin stems. Can be cooked along with the leaves or trimmed and cooked on their own.
- Edible Shoots – Used when young. Raw or cooked, but usually cooked.
- Edible Flowers and Flowering Stems – Used like broccoli (I’ve seen it dubbed “Rockoli”), but with smaller florets… closer to a broccolini or broccoli raab (rapini). Although with more
- General insect nectar plant – especially bees and parasatoid wasps
- Butterfly nectar plant
- Ornamental Plant – not a common ornamental, but it is still sold as one in some places
- Drought Tolerant Plant – once established
- Dynamic Accumulator – although I can find no good information to support this, it is likely considering its taproot. If it is like other Brassicas, then it would accumulate Phosphorus and Sulfur.
- Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land (this is why it is considered an invasive plant!)
- Groundcover Plant – this plant can be used as a groundcover, but probably would do best in a mixed species groundcover planting. Eric Toensmeier pairs it with astragalus.
- Animal Fodder Plant – one of its original uses. Cattle, sheep, swine, and poultry all can/have used this plant for food.
- Maritime Plant – like most species in the Brassica family, Turkish Rocket can withstand maritime conditions.
Harvesting: Leaves can be harvested at anytime and are often promoted as being the first and last greens in the garden. Young and tender leaves are available in the Spring. This is a true cut-and-come-again plant. If you keep removing the larger, older leaves, then the plant will continue to produce young, tender leaves through most of the year in most growing environments. Flowering stems and flowers are available in late Spring to early Summer.
Storage: Use within a few days fresh, similar to broccoli, kale, or collard greens.
DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information available.
Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.
Plant Type: Small Herbaceous Plant (usually perennial, but can be biennial)
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: As far as I can tell, there are no named varieties.
Pollination: Self-fertile. Pollinated by bees, flies, or self.
Flowering: Late Spring to early Summer.
Life Span: Turkish Rocket can live to at least 12 years; however, it reseeds easily, so an individual’s life span is not that relevant.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
Roots: Fibrous with one or more taproots at least 1 inch/2.5 cm thick that can dive to at least 6.5 feet/2 meters deep
Growth Rate: Fast
GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: prefers moist soils, but tolerates a wide range of soil conditions once established
pH: prefers neutral soils, but tolerates a wide range of soil conditions
Special Considerations for Growing:
Typically from seed. High germination rates. Can be propagated via division; Spring division is recommended. Eric Toensmeier reports that if the roots are broken, new plants pop up. This supports the documentation that this plant can be easily propagated via root cuttings (one report states it can regrow from a 0.4 inch/1 cm segment!).
Turkish Rocket is considered an invasive plant in some locations.
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