Monday, October 19, 2009

Spice of a tree

There are many herbs and veggies out there that get tons of attention. We all know about parsley, mint, onion, beets, carrots, rosemary, thyme and a whole slew of others. One of the often left out of the delicious seasonings comes from a tree. You're probably thinking about cinnamon or cloves, maybe even cocoa.
When I was little I was camping with my family and my mom foud some of this wonderful bit of the plant family and made some tea. It was one of the oddest taste and yet familiar. It was sassafras tea, ok so not really a tea but see my other blog about that.
It was once the main flavoring of rootbeer but is now illegal to put in there since it is a very mild narcotic. I guess some narcotic is too much for the FDA. Amazing how some things still get through... Anyhow that wasn't the wierdest part. We probably know various plants that make pretty good flavoring from the root but this tree has another use. An entirely different seasioning comes from it's leaves and you can buy this in the store, at least down here in Texas. If you've ever heard much cajun music you are bound to have heard of the "filé gumbo." Pronounced fee-lay it is the dried leaf of the sassafras tree. I have found a local sassafras tree on a nearby street and as soon as I muster up a little more boldness I'm going to ask if I can rake the yard for this wonderful spice. Ok, maybe not rake the yard but at least pick up a few leaves for drying so I can have fresh filé.


  1. I had forgotten that sassafras was/is used in cajun cooking. I would pick the leaves off the tree, definitely!

    Do you think the tree owners know about their tree?

    Good post, I love to learn new tidbits every day!

  2. We have a big sassafras tree we planted to attract spicebush swallowtails (they lay their eggs on the leaves). Never thought of it as belonging to the vegetable garden, too. Thanks for your article -- maybe we'll try to homemade hooch with the leaves.

  3. Thanks for this post! I love learning about herbs and spices. i might have to try this... but I don't think that these trees grow around here. What does the "tea" taste like?

  4. We have sassafras trees, which plant themselves under taller trees. I never thought to dry any leaves. Sassafras is one of the few trees here that have bright red color when it finally turns really cool. Sassafras twigs are very aromatic.