Sassafras, a native of the eastern United States, is one of the few prominent spices that does not originate in tropical nations.
It was steeped to produce tea, flavor traditional root beer, and used to gumbo, a popular Creole cuisine from Louisiana, South America, until the FDA forbade its bulk manufacture.
They are back on the market thanks to forward-thinking producers who started to eliminate the hazardous elements in sassafras.
Despite the leaves are no longer commonly accessible, the plant remains dear to many Americans.
If you’ve never had sassafras, we’ll tell you what to anticipate. However, first and foremost, what precisely is sassafras?
What exactly is Sassafras?
Sassafras, a genus in the Lauraceae family that contains other famous spices like cinnamon and bay leaves, was originally thought to be a miracle medication capable of curing a variety of ailments.
Summer green leaves on sassafras trees may be seen in three distinct forms.
They may be round, mitten-shaped, or split into three lobes, and all three can be seen in the same tree.
The leaves, twigs, berries, and roots of the tree are all edible, and they have a distinct scent when crushed.
The root, on the other hand, is the most widely utilized portion, which is excavated, dried, and typically powdered.
How Does Sassafras Taste? Is Sassafras Delicious?
Sassafras is a fragrant spice with an earthy taste with anise and lemon undertones.
It pairs nicely with many other herbs and enhances a variety of meals and curries.
Sassafras teas, including commercial tea bags, are also popular as refreshing drinks with a powerful scent that wakes you up.
If you like root beer, you’ll probably like sassafras as well.
They have a similar flavor, and sassafras is even said to be the forefather of root beer.
Apart from the citrus-like flavor, sassafras has a taste similar to vanilla or licorice.
Sassafras has long been utilized as a medicine by South American tribes, and several current investigations back this up.
They function as a diuretic, lowering blood pressure, increasing urine production, and preventing bloating.
Some chemicals are also known to lower inflammation and aid in the healing process.
In tropical areas, several chemicals in sassafras combat a parasite ailment known as leishmaniasis.
So, why did the FDA restrict sassafras despite its obvious health benefits?
Several studies have linked safrole, a chemical component found in sassafras, to cancer and tumor development in mice.
While there have been no human experiments to substantiate the claim that sassafras is carcinogenic, it is usually regarded as a possible health danger.
Nonetheless, some sassafras products on the market are safrole-free and safe to ingest.
How to Cook with Sassafras?
Boiling fresh sassafras leaves and roots produces an extract that is typically sweetened and consumed as a hot beverage.
South Americans were the first to employ dried and powdered sassafras leaves as a distinctive spice in Creole cookery, known as gumbo fileas.
stews and a thickening agent—as a replacement for okra when it is unavailable. The powdered file is frequently used as a soup seasoning.
Notwithstanding the FDA prohibition, many Americans continue to eat fresh sassafras leaves for two reasons.
The meal has long been a part of the traditional diet, both as a normal spice and as a medication, and it was even sent in huge quantities to other regions of the globe.
Sassafras leaves are also thought to have less safrole than other parts of the tree. Many people believe that moderation is the key.
If you are not easily frightened, you may have a lovely spicy cup of sassafras tea, sweetened or unsweetened to your liking.
You may also combine sassafras tea with cinnamon, ginger, anise, or other herbs to make a nutrient-rich, tasty drink.
Also, if you want to experiment, you may add powdered sassafras spices to your soups and curries.
Raw leaves and twigs may also be eaten.
Many Americans continue to appreciate sassafras, despite the fact that farmers no longer grow and sell it as readily as they previously did.
Nonetheless, there are still methods to get sassafras and include it into your diet.
They are a great addition to the kitchen spice racks that appeal to our diverse taste senses.
Therefore, enjoy your sassafras, but remember to take it in moderation when dealing with fresh ones.