Herb of Grace? Why is it called that?
Rue? Why don’t we hear more about it?
It turns out that it was once as common as basil or oregano in the kitchen. Not so much today. This is a very old plant. It is used medicinally and in cooking.
The leaves are used in cooking as a spice for eggs, cheese, and meat. It can also be eaten fresh in salads, although it is extremely bitter, it is said to increase your appetite. I’m not a particular fan of bitter, but I must say I’m eager to try this now that I’ve read a little about it.
I’m particularly interested in it’s use as a medicinal. It has such a broad range of uses, it seems like it was just used for everything, from colds and fevers to melancholy and hiccups. There were some pretty strong warnings about it as well. The oils of rue should not come in direct contact with the skin, as this can cause blistering and an acid type reaction. Also, pregnant women should not use rue, as it can cause miscarriage. However, it is indicated for use as an aid for menses.
In folklore it’s used to repel witches and evil spirits. So, there’s that.
Similarly, if you throw a handful of rue at someone that has wronged you, you can pronounce on them a curse. Which coincidentally is where the expression, “rue the day” comes from.
So, how did it get the name Herb of Grace? The name Rue comes from the Latin ruta which means “to preserve” It was said to be a ward of contagion, most likely because of it’s pungent sweet aroma. It was used to mask the smell of daily yuck that pervaded medieval living. It was used to purify and a “brush” of rue was used to distribute the holy water in the church.
Mentioned by Shakespeare and grown in the Shakespeare Garden at New Place, Stratford-On-Avon in the garden designed by Ernest Law in the 1920’s.
From Hamlet we find it in a speech given by Ophelia,
- Ophelia: There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love,
- remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.
- Laertes: A document in madness! Thoughts and remembrance fitted.
- Ophelia: There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you,
- and here’s some for me. We may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays.
- O, you must wear your rue with a difference! There’s a daisy. I
- would give you some violets, but they wither’d all when my father
- died. They say he made a good end.
- It seems to me quixotic that this herb of rue, named so for it’s Latin meaning as a preserver, is now known as a lament or a regret. As we see again from Shakespeare, Richard II, Act 3, Scene 4,
Here she did fall a tear, here upon this place
I’ll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace.
- I’m ordering rue to put along the treeline. I’m getting my seeds from Pantry Garden Herbs. I think it will be pretty, and I’d like to taste it myself. Also, I’ve read that it discourages deer, dogs and foxes so I may put it around where the chickens will be as well. What’s old is new, even with rue.
- Today’s list from Ark of Taste is squash. I grow lots of squash, I love it. I love viney things I’ve learned. If you don’t have the space or are concerned with meandering vines, construct a trellis. They can be made from inexpensive, readily available materials, Pvc, bamboo canes, my father in law made a trellis with the springs from a discarded baby crib. I also saw a really cool trellis made from bicycle tires, it’s so cool it looks like art for the garden! So, don’t pass up the squash simply because of space concerns.
- Algonquin Squash
- Amish Pie Squash
- Boston Marrow Squash
- Canada Crookneck Squash
- Green-striped Cushaw
- Sibley Squash
I found this recipe I’m going to try. Let me know if you use rue when you cook I’d love to see your recipes. I love new recipes.
This recipe is from Celtnet recipes and it is for a traditional plum sauce that is served with meat. An ancient recipe for an ancient herb. Let me know what you think of it.
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper 1/2 tsp ground cumin seeds 1/2 tsp lovage seeds (or celery seeds) 1 tsp rue berries (or dried rosemary) 40g pitted and chopped damson plums 80ml white wine 2 tbsp honey 2 tsp cider (or white wine) vinegar 3 tbsp liquamen 200ml pork or chicken stock
Pound together the black pepper, cumin seeds, lovage (or celery) seeds and rue (or rosemary) in a mortar. Add the damsons and pound until smooth. Now work in the white wine, honey, vinegar and liquamen. Then mix with a little of the stock. Turn the mixture into a pan then beat in the remaining meat stock. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced and thickened. Pour over the meat and serve.
May your paisley day be preserved with rue!~KeriAnne