False rocket, also called White Rocket… Whereas many consider it a weed and decimate it with large doses of herbicides, we let it to grow freely….. for the pleasure it gives to the eye, for the health of our soils and for the happiness of our bees! Here are a few words about this interesting plant…..

False Rocket or White Rocket 

NoScientific name: Diplotaxis erucoides (L.) DC. 

Family: Brassicaceae 

Flowering: all year round 

In the Mediterranean Basin, false rocket is particularly abundant as a companion plant to field crops of vines or olive trees, at the foot of which it often forms dense stands that are covered with fragrant white flowers, particularly spectacular in autumn and at the end of winter.   False rocket is one of the species noted for their flowering, especially in winter. It is also much appreciated as a plant attractive to honeybees.

biodiversité au Domaine Roche-Audran, Buisson
Diplotaxis erucoides

Its benefits for soils: 

False rocket is a plant belonging to the Brassicaceae (or Cruciferous) family, like cabbage, turnip, mustard, radish, rapeseed or real rocket. It is present mainly in the northern part of the Mediterranean basin, and can be seen in all seasons; but it is in winter that its flowering is most remarkable. It appreciates clay soils, preferably limestone, and is very common in vineyards. 

The role of cruciferous plants (and therefore of false rocket) is to release phosphorus in the soil, but also to loosen the soil due to their taproot and to capture many other nutrients in the soil (e.g. nitrogen, magnesium, sulphur).

Going further, Gérard Ducerf, author of The Encyclopedia of Bio-Indicator Plants, adds that a high population of false rocket reveals a soil rich in nitrogen and base minerals, whose high pH locks in nutrients. It is very useful for soil restoration! 

In short, false rocket is an excellent green manure, but it is also very interesting for many pollinators (various bees, sawflies, and beetles), because it flowers all year round, even in winter, covering often bare soil with a beautiful white carpet. 

Its benefits for apiculture:

The nectar production of false rocket is very abundant and is close to that of a related species, rapeseed (Brassica napus). In addition, its exceptionally prolonged flowering all year round, and which is particularly abundant in autumn and late winter at times when flowering is rare, makes false rocket a key resource for Mediterranean hives, both at the beginning and end of winter. 

Its culinary benefits:

Fake rocket is also edible! The buds, flowers and young fruits have a sharp and piquant taste, similar to horseradish and mustard (between mustard and garlic). The young leaves are excellent in salads and the older leaves are eaten as cooked vegetables. The plant also makes a delicious pesto! 

In addition, this wild plant is not only rich in complete proteins and vitamin C, but it is also known to have several medicinal properties: expectorant, stimulant, antiscorbutic and diuretic. The fresh plant was formerly used in infusions and decoctions. 

But beware: False rocket should not be picked just anywhere, as it is one of the few wild species capable of resisting certain cereal crop herbicides. 

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