I was going to tell you how much I love gumbo and that file is used as a thickener.
So I went to see what else it can be used for... I was shocked! I will guard my file!
EDIT to add "DISCLAIMER" This seems to be false information, see note below:
Sassafras has been found by the FDA to contain Saffrole, and supposed carcinogenic and so has been banned, this means that gumbo file powder is illegal. The amount needed in lab rats to produce cancer was about 3-5 times their body weight a day for the length of their lives. The amount of safrole in a 12 oz can of old fashioned root beer soda is less carcinogenic than the amount of alcohol in a can of beer. Besides that it is not poisonus in any way.
The root tea is used by herbalists as a spring time tonic, for stomach problems, gout, arthritus, rheumatism, kidney problems, high blood pressure, and much more. Is it medically proven to be beneficial.
S Tonin wrote:I've never used it myself; I've never made or even eaten gumbo. I do like trying new things, though, and I have lots of sassafras trees.
I've read up on how to do it and most sources just say "young leaves." How young? How old is too old? Is there some kind of indicator of optimal harvest time like there is with say, spruce tips?
Also, does anyone have any other recipes or uses for it? I know the roots are medicinal, are the leaves?
I dried a bunch of it. Then the deer ate my okra (they must have been beyond desperate) and we never made gumbo. It was very easy to dry, and I would just recommend bending the leaves and making sure they are supple, or just cut between the big veins.
Standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants with dirt under their nails
First, I have never made my own file. In fact I don't normally use it in my Gumbo. Traditional cajun kitchens put a jar on the table to allow each to add their own to their preference. I like a broth type roux for my gumbo so quit using it myself. Instead, I use the whole leaf as a seasoning while simmering and fusing the flavor to the roux. (Please remove the whole leaf, as is is not good to eat; or so I am told.) As far as other recipes, I use whole leaves in a lot of other stocks where I need an earthy undertone. Also it is a key ingredient in seafood prep. (boiled crab, shrimp, crawfish, etc...), even spaghetti sauce.
I can't remember or source where I know this from; but as I recall the best file is fresh made from late spring leaves, dried and ground, stored in sealed mason jars. I think it has to do with the ratio of sap to fiber in the new growth; but I am stretching here. I don't think most of us could tell the difference between file made from one leaf or another. Some old timers might; or people with very sophisticated palettes. Experiment. The journey is the reward. My suggestion would be leaves that are one to two months old from budding time. Air dry, meaning room temp, exposed to air circulation but not direct sunlight. Shake, stir or fluff daily to prevent any moisture issues or mold. when brittle grind into a fine powder.
Yes, the leaves are reported to be medicinal in poultice. This from Native American remedies, as a pain and inflammation treatment.
Don't be afraid to try a gumbo or roux! It is actually very easy and no different from you grandmother's flour gravy. It just is cooked longer and to a higher temp. I had to teach myself how to make a roux and was intimidated at first at the mystery surrounding it. It really was not that difficult. Just keep the paste moving and don't let it stick to the pan. For your first try start with your stove on a medium heat, so it does not 'get away from you', as you practice. It takes longer but will yield success with less fuss. As you get more accustom to the way it progresses, you can add more heat to cut the cook time. Also, many 'new cooks' are advocating doing a 'dry roux' which is just toasting the flour in the oven, so there is no stirring. However, that technique takes a long time, but is fairly fool proof. I have not tried it myself.
Companion Planting Guide by World Permaculture Association