Southeastern Foraging: Sassafras

I had my first successful foraging experiment yesterday! My partner and I literally stumbled into some sassafras growing in a friend’s front yard! I took some leaves home, dried them in the oven, and ground them into filé powder, which is an important ingredient in Creole cooking. 

Filé is used as a thickening agent and has a distinctive, earthy flavor. It’s sometimes used to thicken gumbo when okra is out of season. (Now I just have to figure out how to make gumbo vegetarian. 😅)

I’m going to go back later in the fall to (ethically) harvest some of the root and bark, which are more widely-known for their medicinal and culinary uses. The bark and root are the main flavoring agent used in traditional root beer. Medicinally, sassafras can be used in a variety of treatments, including urinary disorders, fevers, and acne. 

I’m also going to try to see if I can transplant one of the plants to my garden once they’re dormant for the winter, but sassafras doesn’t transplant very well, so we’ll see how that goes. 

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