Re: [gardeners] Sunday in the garden

George Shirley (
Sat, 22 May 1999 07:24:44 -0500

Linda Baranowski-Smith wrote:

> >Thought that one might throw y'all but sassafras leaves is what gumbo
> George wrote, in part:
> >file' is made from. Dried two trays of the leaves and ended up with
> >about 4 ounces of file powder.
> >
> >Noted too, that the sassafras tree has fruit on it, first time I've seen
> >this. May harvest some ripe, if the birds don't get it all, and then
> >plant them to make more trees.
> George,
> Should you need some more sassafras leaves for file`, let me know.  At what
> stage of leaf growth do you pick and dry the leaves?

I try to pick the leaves when they have reached maximum size but before they
get tough. Only takes a short while to dry them in the dehydrator, let them
cool, and then whiz in the blender into a powder. Three trays of leaves make
about 4 ounces of file' for me and that's usually enough for a year around
here. We use the stuff as an additive to gumbo but only a small amount into the
bowl when we serve it. I've talked to folks who have tried to thicken gumbo
with it and found it makes the gumbo bitter.

> Interesting that you have observed fruit this year;  I looked for it
> everywhere locally last fall, obviously after the birds had feasted on
> them.  My 40 yr old sassafras tree doesn't produce any drupes.  It must be
> a male.

Well, I can't find any drupes right now. Looks like the birds ate them all. The
grackles love that tree, it's only about 10 or 12 years old and grows against
the trunk of a large oak tree. I'm nurturing one that came up in the herb
garden and when it reaches about 12 inches tall I will transplant it for a

Not only is the sassafras a useful tree it makes a lovely shade tree,
eventually. The biggest one I've ever seen was about 18 inches in diameter. It
had to be cleared (cut) to make room for a road and the landowner had it turned
into planks and air-dried for a couple of years. He then lined a closet with
the planks, claiming the wood had properties similar to cedar for combatting
moths. I would have made furniture of it as the wood was very pretty.

> Linda in NW Ohio near Toledo/Lake Erie, USDA Zone 5

George, in SW Louisiana, where it is heavily overcast today. Sure hope we get
some rain.