It all started with one little comment. My boy headed out the door at about 9am (the beauty of homeschooling) and a statement of "I'm going to see if that tree back there is a Sassafras." "OK", I say. "Great Idea. If you dig up some roots, I'll help you make a root beer." (In homeschool lingo that's called curiosity follow up:)
Oohh, you should just see the eye-sparkle.
Since I'm always game for a new plant adventure, I was inspired when I read the other day about easy lacto-fermented infusions by the one and only Kiva Rose, quickly followed up by another fantastic entry by Tammy over at Witchen Kitchen. How could I resist? What I have learned about brewing anything fermented was intimidatingly complicated, laborious, and space and time consuming. And tales of exploding beer bottles stamped that project "after children". So when I read these - and how ridiculously easy it is - it fit perfectly with my Son's sudden interest in Sassafras.
As you can see, his enthusiasm, and the thought of homemade root beer, quickly ignited the interest of big sis, who contributed her determination and elbow grease to the matter.
Here is their biggest prize root. But I'm not convinced it's any better than the little ones, it seems drier. And it's nearly impossible to cut. I had to chop this off of the trunk with a maul.
The leaves we laid out carefully across cloth lined baskets to dry for tea or of course File. What's Gumbo without file? Fresh leaves are decidedly wonderful to eat. They are sweetly bland and slippery, with a very satisfying chewing experience. I would definitely eat up a bowl of Sass leaves, Boston lettuce, and good sesame dressing.
I think, traditionally, Sass root is dug up a little earlier in the spring to drink as a blood tonic, but until this weekend it's been way to cold and rainy for me to do much outside. Really I think it's good anytime to dig the roots and drink as a blood tonic, or just because it's blissfully delicious. And after you brew the roots and eat the leaves .... don't throw out the trunk and branches! I just learned from a fellow Instructor that it makes superb firewood.
More to come on the whey ...... photos of the rest of the root beer process.