Is Rue (Ruta graveolens) Edible?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Marlene Lines
Posted on: September 08, 2004

I just purchased this plant from your store today ... as an edible. I went on the website at davesgarden.com and searched for more information and hopefully a photo of the flower for this plant.

The website indicates the plant is poisonous! Readers have sent in comments about rashes and painful blisters from touching the plant when wet or perspiring? Are you certain rue can be ingested?

Yes, it is edible. Rue is a traditional flavouring used in Greece and other Mediterranean countries. For more details about rue and its use in foods check out the entry on rue in Gernot Katzer’s Spice Dictionary at http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/engl/Ruta_gra.html.

It is true that rue can cause skin rashes on some individuals. The rashes occur when a sensitive person’s skin comes in contact with fresh rue foliage and that area of skin then is exposed to sunlight. The ultraviolet portion of natural sunlight triggers the skin reaction by potentitizing the rue compounds. If these same sensitive persons are exposed to fresh rue and not to UV light then the rash does not occur.

I have never heard of anyone suffering adverse reactions to rue’s use in foods. When used sparingly as a flavouring the risk of skin rashes is apparently quite low. Rue’s long history of use in food in europe and north africa would seem unlikely if it were poisonous to ingest.

As always, when introducing a new herb or spice to the diet it is good idea to test a small amount first. Stop using any herb or spice that causes any adverse reaction including allergic ones.

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