Salad rocket grows 20–100 centimetres (8–39 in) in height. The leaves are deeply pinnately lobed with four to ten small lateral lobes and a large terminal lobe. The flowers are 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) in diameter, arranged in a corymb in typicalBrassicaceae fashion; with creamy white petals veined with purple, and with yellow stamens; the sepals are shed soon after the flower opens. The fruit is a siliqua (pod) 12–35 millimetres (0.5–1.4 in) long with an apical beak, and containing several seeds (which are edible). The species has a chromosome number of 2n = 22.
Vernacular names include salad rocket, garden rocket, or simply rocket (British, Australian, Canadian, South African and New Zealand English), eruca, and arugula (American English). All names ultimately derive from the Latin word eruca, a name for an unspecified plant in the family Brassicaceae, probably a type of cabbage.
Salad rocket has a rich, peppery taste and an exceptionally pungent flavor for a leafy green. It is frequently used in salads, often mixed with other greens in a mesclun. It is also used raw withpasta or meats in northern Italy and in western Slovenia (especially in the Slovenian Istria). In Italy, raw rocket is often added to pizzas just before the baking period ends or immediately afterwards, so that it will not wilt in the heat. It is also used cooked in Puglia, in Southern Italy, to make the pasta dish cavatiéddi, "in which large amounts of coarsely chopped rocket are added to pasta seasoned with a homemade reduced tomato sauce and pecorino", as well as in "many unpretentious recipes in which it is added, chopped, to sauces and cooked dishes" or in a sauce (made by frying it in olive oil and garlic) used a condiment for cold meats and fish. In the Slovenian Littoral, it is often combined with boiled potatoes, used in a soup, or served with the cheese burek, especially in the town of Koper.
A sweet, peppery digestive alcohol called rucolino is made from arugula on the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples. This liqueur is a local specialty enjoyed in small quantities following a meal in the same way as a limoncello or grappa.
In Brazil, where its use is widespread, arugula is eaten raw in salads. A popular combination is arugula mixed with mozzarella cheese (normally made out of buffalo milk) and sun-dried tomatoes.
In Egypt the plant is commonly eaten with ful medames for breakfast, and regularly accompanies local seafood dishes.
In West Asia and Northern India, arugula seeds are pressed to make taramira oil, used in pickling and (after aging to remove acridity) as a salad or cooking oil. The seed cake is also used as animal feed.