"powdered sassafras leaves" any substitutes?


Old 11-12-12, 01:01 PM
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"powdered sassafras leaves" any substitutes?

So, trying to make a meat rub recipe that I got off the web. It asks for powdered sassafras leaves. Up until today I'd never in my life heard of them. They are also called Gumbo file apparently.

Being in small town Canada, I roamed all over town today to several spice stores/grocery stores. Nobody's heard of them, nobody has them.

Not sure how integral they are to the final outcome of the spice rub, but wondering if anyone knows of something similar I could substitute?
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Old 11-12-12, 01:28 PM
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Interesting tidbit I found out. The reason you're not finding it anywhere, is because it's been banned by the FDA due to it causing liver damage and other cancers in humans, so it shouldn't be eaten by people, only birds and wild life. However it can be sold as an extract, because the bad parts have been removed by the process. Then it's used in teas and root beer.

SO, I would use tea as a substitute (just open up some tea bags).
Old 11-12-12, 01:38 PM
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I think that our local stores carry a liquid sassafras in the coffee and tea section, top shelf with other odd items.
Old 11-12-12, 02:37 PM
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After doing some further research today, I found some information about this that relates to the concerns about this stuff.

It's the root that's carcinogenic, not the leaves. The leaves have no measurable amounts of the substance (safrole or something like that) that's bad for you.

From the looks of things, it's a seasoning and thickener. But later this afternoon I found that some folks from Louisiana, don't even bother with it in their Cajun food. Apparently you can use Okra as a substitute? I mentioned this to my wife and she said that if I put Okra in anything, she's not eating it. She was pretty serious about it, so I think I'll just leave well enough alone. Don't like tapdancing on landmines. From the sounds of it it's slimy. I've never had Okra, so I have no clue.

Usually, I'm not one for following recipes but for some reason today I became nitty about it and wanted to find this stuff or a substitute. Just went ahead and made the rub without the sassafras leaves when I couldn't find them. Smells good. We'll see.

Wife laughed when she found out this was the first time I'd ever used measuring spoons in my entire life.

Hope this turns out.
Old 11-12-12, 03:19 PM
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I dunno how you can possibly make a good gumbo w/o file powder AND okra!

Likely it's a regional thing....I can only find small containers of Old Bay out here...in VA I could buy 1 lb cans almost anywhere. I'm not sure if we have file here, I'll check next time I shop.

Don't use tea! It won't give the right flavor and won't powder like file will. Basil, rosemary or sage would be closer...probably sage.

Wildbill...some people love okra (like me!) others can't stand it. My wife likes pickles, but not pickled okra, but she likes fried okra just fine. Sliced and cooked in a gumbo or soup (even chili) the slimy kinda goes away and it's sorta like a chunk of zuke....sorta! Just not solid through.

Here's a thread about finding in in Toronto...maybe it will help...ISO: File powder - Ontario (inc. Toronto) - Chowhound

btw.....in case no one knows....it's pronounced "feel-a"
Old 11-12-12, 05:45 PM
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Old 11-13-12, 05:48 AM
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It's the root that's carcinogenic, not the leaves.
I had never heard that. Back when I was a kid we used to dig up the roots and then they'd be used to make either sassafras tea or homemade root bear. They used to tell us the homemade root bear was just as good as the store bought but my taste buds told me different.
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