From the Spanish "safras"
Family: Lauraceae like bay leaves
Height: Appoximately 27 m
Native Indians from the American southwest, the Choctaws, took notice of this immense tree that grew like a god in the lands of Louisiana.
Its leaves are unique because they appear in three different shapes on the same tree. The red branches produce greenish-colored flowers and dark blue fruit.
A marriage of hearts and minds
The ground leaves are used to flavor Creole and Cajun dishes: soups, gumbos, dishes in sauce, and stews. The sassafras powder also acts as a thickener (see filé powder, below).
American Indians still use sassafras bark to make an invigorating tea.
Buying and storing
Always sold dried, sassafras is available in powdered form as a spice and in strips for tea.
Sassafras Powder or Filé Powder
Made from dried ground sassafras leaves, filé powder is used as a condiment and to thicken gumbo. It has a piquant aromatic flavor.
Note: filé powder is never used during the cooking process for gumbo. It is added to each serving individually. Cooking or reheating a dish to which filé powder has been added will turn the liquid gluey.
Hints & Tips