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Sassafras Tea…It’s Springtime Dearie!

Sassafras Tea...It's Springtime Dearie!

When springtime came upon us at the farm along the banks of the lower Delaware River, one could be sure that Grammy would soon be mixing up a batch of sassafras tea. It was one of those childhood experiences that still vividly conjure up specific aroma and taste-bud memories. Grammy’s tea wasn’t made from the leaves of the sassafras trees that grew profusely in the area. No – her’s was made from finely-chopped roots dug out of muddy ground. Root beer used to be made from sassafras, and may have been much tastier than today’s “modern” product, but sassafras was deemed unsafe because of the oil it contains. Until the early 1970s it was still possible to purchase ground sassafras root. Little did my grandmother know that the herbal drink she gave us as a spring tonic would become an object of governmental interest. Since the leaves of the tree contain very little of the problematic oil they are considered safe to use. We all survived Grammy’s doses, though, thank you very much. Perhaps that’s because we were too ornery. I mean – skunk cabbage tops, wild mustard greens, and dandelion greens sopping with bacon grease were also part of our spring fare. And, – let’s not leave out those springtime worming regimens and daily doses of cod-liver oil in orange juice. Those were considered essential for the well being of us kids. Not my favorite springtime childhood memories! I still have trouble downing a nice glass of Florida liquid sunshine without tasting cod-liver oil.

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