Rue is an ancient Mediterranean citrus-family herb from the Balkans. Romans used it in spicy herb mixtures, and while it has mostly fallen out of favor due to its bitter flavor, it is still found today in Greek, Italian, and perhaps most often, in Ethiopian cooking. In Ethiopia, a fresh leaf is dipped in coffee releasing oil and aroma, and the dried fruits, called Tenadam ("Health of Adam") are used in Berbere pepper seasoning blend and Shiro.
Early on, it was rumored to ward off witches and to be an antidote for poisoning. The Catholic Church adopted it as a cleansing "herb of grace" to dip in holy water to sprinkle over people's heads as a blessing. Due to the Catholic presence in Latin America, La Ruda (as it is called in Spanish) became an important part of traditional folk medicine in the Caribbean and beyond. It is very powerful and must be treated carefully and with respect.
Eastern Swallowtail Butterflies lay their eggs on Rue so that their caterpillars can feast on this powerful plant. It is a great addition to a pollinator garden!
Caution: Can be harmful when consumed internally. Also, be careful when handling rue foliage as the plant oils on the skin when reacting with sunlight can cause a rash reaction similar to poison ivy.
Days to maturity: 100-125
Seeds per pack: 60-65
Germination rate: 83% on 02/09/2023
Planting / harvesting notes
Sow seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost, ¼ inch deep. Transplant into the garden when several inches tall 12-24 inches apart.
Seed keeping notes
Harvest seeds when fruits have turned brown. Knock seeds out of fruits against the side of a bowl or bucket. Use strainers and winnowing to remove chaff and keep in a cool dry place until planting.