Sweet iced tea, it’s the drink of the south. Except it’s not really, it’s the drink of China. Tea has been coming across the sea to America since before we were free, but the real “iced tea” of the south is sassafras.
Sassafras has been used as a traditional herbal medicine, and tough I’m sure it has many uses and properties, around here it’s said to thin your blood out for summertime which is supposed to help you handle the heat. I’m not really sure if it works or not, but it’s a really good excuse to drink a lot of it. Sassafras is the flavor root beer is now based on.
To make the tea you need the root bark, which means digging. You don’t need to put extravagant effort into the digging. Sassafras grows rampantly and is one of the first trees to come back in cleared areas. There’s no need to dig up a full grown tree, you can find plenty of first and second year starts. Personally I prefer the roots around the size of a finger, the younger ones have a slightly bitter flavor to me.
Once you have a comfortable handful wash them off and simmer them in 1-2 gallons of water. How long you cook them depends on your taste, and the strength and age of your roots. The water should be orange, but not red.
When you reach your color, strain through a fine cloth (to get the sand and dirt out), and add 1 cup (more or less) of sugar for each gallon.
The roots can be used a few times before they are finished. If you do boil them too long you get hair wash. Washing your hair in dark sassafras tea is supposed to help it curl. I did this quite a lot when I was younger. It never made my hair curl one bit, but it did give me red highlights, so overall a success.
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So beautifully written.