Wow, it is such a beautiful day here in East Tennessee, I am so glad I got out amongst nature and accomplished something I have been wanting to do forever. I called my brother Phil and he and I went down to our family's property (actually it's a cemetery our family owns) and we scouted out some Sassafras Trees. Other than the tea, most people might not know what sassafras is good for. If you dry the leaves and grind them into powder, you will have made filé powder. "Great" you say, "what is filé powder???"
Filé (fee-lay) is used in cajun cooking, primarily in the preparation of my favorite cajun food... GUMBO! The sassafras tree has 3 different and distinct leaves as pictured. These three leaves all came off the same tree. There is a 3 lobed leaf, an ovoid leaf, and one shaped like a kid's mitten. Most say it was the Choctaw Indians in Louisiana that taught dem Cajuns to use it for flavoring and thickening the gumbos. I have bought filé powder before but it doesn't seem to have the strength to work properly. I found THIS ARTICLE on making filé powder that will help.
You can find the trees in most wooded areas of the southeast on down as far as Texas. Since this is my first time harvesting it, and I've read you should break off small limbs, spray them off with water and let them dry for about a week out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will make them brown. I have a few pics here for you. So, while the weather is nice, get out and pick some, and make you some good filé powder. Be sure not to put it in until your gumbo is nearly finished. Some put it in after cooking or offer it at the table for guests to use at they're discretion.
Both my Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and my VooDoo Bayou Seafood Gumbo recipes are accessible by clicking on their highlighted titles, try your new sassafras leaf Filé out on one of those recipes. Have fun and enjoy the fresh air once you're outside picking leaves.