[Sca-cooks] Question about rue....

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 24 11:42:32 PST 2008

Kiri wrote:
> OK...I understand that rue is probably not a good thing to use in cooking,
> that it can have some unfortunate side effects.  Am I correct in this?  If
> so, does anyone have any idea what to do about all those recipes from the
> Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook that call for the herb?  I'm contemplating
> using a number of Andalusian recipes for my Middle Eastern feast in
> February, but worry about all of that rue!  I don't want to "rue" 
> my choices...nor for my diners to do so!  ;-)

My understanding is that the amount one would use to season a dish is unlikely to cause a miscarriage. A pregnant woman would need to ingest either an awful lot of rue herb, or rue herb brewed into a tea, or an extract or oil, for rue to function as an abortifacient.

For example, the suggested dose to make an abortifacient tea is 1 to 3 tsp. rue herb per cup, and to drink one cup 3 to 4 times daily. "Boil the water first then pour the boiled water over the dried herb. Do not boil the herb in water, as this destroys the herb's properties." The source did not mention how many days one would have to continue this for the desired effect. But is sounds like one day may or may not be enough.

As long as your diners do not each consume 3 to 12 tsp. per person, i suspect that using rue in one dish will not be problematic. Additionally, you could suggest that pregnant women who want to keep their babies do not eat that particular dish.

In my search i found that *sage*, which we do not fear to eat, is also considered a known herbal abortifacient. And according to a paper from Sloan-Kettering, "Small quantities of safrole, which has been shown to be both a hepatotoxin and hepatocarcinogen [hepato- refers to the liver] in laboratory animals, have been found in nutmeg, anise, mace and cinnamon." So these spices, which i suspect most of us accept as safe as a flavoring, can also be potentially hazardous... if used in large quantities.

I'm surprised that there is so much concern about using rue and no concern about using other herbs and spices. I can only guess that because we do not generally use rue any more, we look it up, but we don't look up the possible medicinal uses and side effects of herbs and spcies we commonly use. 

> Also...I have run across a number of references to a measurement called 
> *kail*.  Any idea how much that would be?

A kail is both the verb meaning "to measure", and a measurement for grain. However the Encyclopedia of Islam says that as a specific unit of measure, it is generally locally determined. Some regimes attempted to formalize it. In 14th century Persia, for example, it was a unit of weight legally fixed at 19 lbs., whereas in the Ottoman Empire it was a unit of volume legally fixed at 7-3/4 gallons. But, the Encyclopedia goes on to note, "every centre of trade had...a local kaila which often differs considerably from the normal."

There is also the kailaja, another locally varying but smaller measure, which coul be 1/2 to 2 liters or kilos.

So you need to be specific about the particular time and place of the usage of the word to be able to figure out how much a kail is.
Urtatim (that's urr-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list