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Rue: Culinary Uses

Updated on June 28, 2010

Most people do not think of rue as a culinary herb. In the west, it is used with great caution as a medicinal herb mostly. That is because it is considered poisonous and very bitter. But rue used to be used extensively in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking until very recently. It is still used in North and North East Africa. One of these Countries that use rue extensively in food is Ethiopia. In Ethiopia rue is not considered poisonous at all if used appropriately.

In Western cultures rue has a negative history. The name rue means sadness or bitterness. It is usually mentioned in literature and poetry to connote sadness. In medieval times and in Ancient Rome rue was used extensively in cooking. But over millennia it has become unpopular and phased out as a cooking herb.

Rue is not completely abandoned as culinary herb. It is used in flavoring beverages, herbs, and vinegars. In Italy the leaves are used in an alcoholic beverage known as grappa to make what is known as grappa all ruta. As many bitters rue has an appetite stimulating, and bile stimulating, tonic properties.

Sprigs of Rue

photo by lelanew55
photo by lelanew55

Culinary Uses of Rue in Ethiopia

Rue is used to flavor coffee in Ethiopia. You simply cut small sprigs of rue leaves from your garden; wash it and deep a sprig in a hot cup of coffee and drink. It gives the coffee a very nice refreshing lemony flavor. It is also used to flavor Ethiopian yogurt, milk, and cheese. Here again it is very simple, you just stick a sprig or two of rue in you yogurt, milk, or cheese and leave it in and over time it gives a very nice flavor. Rue is used along with many other herbs and spices to prepare an important spice known as "berbere" made of red hot Ethiopian peppers. For these Ethiopians use the dried rue berries. The dried berries can also be added to roasted coffee bean and grounded together to flavor the coffee. Ethiopians call rue "tena Adam". The direct translation is Health for Adam. It means that this herb gives health to humanity. It seems the opposite of what the West says about this forgotten herb.

Rue in Ethiopian Coffee

photo by lelanew 55
photo by lelanew 55

Rue Can be Used more in Cooking

I can see rue coming back as an exciting herb to cook with. Meat, eggs and cheese all can be enhanced by this spice. Of course one should make sure they use it sparingly. Only a small amount of rue is needed as it has a very strong flavor. The bitter taste can be reduced by acids. A leaf or rue may be used to flavor pickled vegetables, in a salad, or add flavor to herbal vinegar.

To avoid the bitterness of rue a cook can use the fact that it releases its essential oil much more quickly than its bitter rutin. You can place the fresh leaves in slightly boiling sauce for about a minute and then remove it. This way you will get the flavor but not the bitterness.I like to encourage adventurous cooks to give rue a try in some of their recipes. They might be pleasantly surprised.

Rue Plant

photo by lelanew55
photo by lelanew55


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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I have great interest in herbs of all kinds and have been trying to make my own herbal garden. Never knew what Rue is used for I definitely learned something new here

    • lelanew55 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you Asseres, I am glad you find rue as a culinary herb useful

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      very informative Iam very greatful for you to give it such extensive coverage of tena adam , thanks again

    • lelanew55 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by RTalloni. I am not sure how it will taste in tea. Maybe you will let me know how that tests.

    • RTalloni profile image


      8 years ago from the short journey

      I'm looking forward to trying rue now that you've shared the tip on how to avoid the bitterness. Maybe not in coffee, but certainly in hot tea. Thanks much.

    • lelanew55 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by dicky boy. Yes Ethiopians love rue. After all its name in the Ethiopian language "Tena Adam" means health for Adams Children, meaning it gives health to humanity.

    • profile image

      dicky boy 

      8 years ago

      Superb article. Small Ethiopian community here in Australia and they seem to use the stuff for everything !

    • lelanew55 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Bk thanks again for the great feed back. I am glad you find this hub interesting and informative. And thanks for rating it up and passing it on. You are so kind.

    • BkCreative profile image


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      What a great and informative hub - and you are absolutely right - we avoid rue here in the USA - mainly because we have no idea what it is. And rue in real coffee as is Ethiopian coffee - my favorite beans? Well, I am sold.

      Here in NYC, where everyone lives, I am sure I can find it. I'll bookmark your hub for reference. Oh, and your photos are great by the way!

      Thanks so much and rated up and more!


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