Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sassafras Tea

Sassafras: it's a hard word to spell, but it makes a great tea. And just like any wild edible, it's free, local, and, if you pay yourself for it, fair trade.

I harvested the sassafras that went into this cup under the guidance of Wildman Steve Brill in Central Park, even though doing so has previously gotten him arrested.

The plant, which is responsible for both file powder (leaves) and root beer (root), has the distinctive feature of bearing three different leaf patterns. Harvesting the root does require killing the tree, so make sure you do so where plenty of others are growing (they can't all survive to maturity anyway). Pull it out of the ground, sniff the root, and you'll swear someone just cracked open a Barq's.

This single root made about a quart of tea, and I've been told that I can keep using it for future brews. The flavor is quite rich and reminiscent of caramel, birch, and to be blunt, root beer. In this day and age it's tough to wrap one's mind around the fact that something can taste like something else through natural means.

I'm sure it must be good for you in all kinds of witchy ways, but some refrain from consuming sassafras because of purported links to cancer. However, everything I've read suggests that's only the case if you drink lots of it and are a rat.

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Michelle said...

Sassafras leaves, when you crush them, also smell just like Froot Loops. I have no idea why.

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