Sassafras albidum – Sassafras

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Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a common native tree in CT.
Sassafras can be identified by having three distinct leaf patterns (one, two, and three lobed leaves). Sassafras leaves have a citrusy smell when crushed.
Young sassafras leaves are edible raw. They have a mucilaginous texture and slightly lemony taste. Sassafras leaves are dried and ground to make filé powder, a thickening and flavoring agent in gumbo.
Sassafras roots can be turned into a tea. This tea was traditionally consumed as a spring tonic. It was thought to prepare the body for the coming heat of summer.
Sassafras roots were originally used to make root beer. Safrole, a constituent of sassafras oil, was banned in 1958 when it was found to have carcinogenic effects in rats. Safrole is also present in black pepper, cinnamon, cocoa, and basil.

Written by Amy Demers, founder of the Connecticut Foraging Club. To learn more about foraging in Connecticut, check out our upcoming classes.

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