Gumbo File Powder Overview
This North American herb adds just the right amount of spice to your dishes, without being too overbearing. Used in Louisiana Creole cuisine for the past couple centuries, gumbo filé powder can become a welcomed seasoning in your own culinary masterpieces. Order yours from our store today!
Filé Powder for Cooking
- Chicken and Sausage File Gumbo – The combination of chicken pieces, sausage, ham, bell peppers, and onions makes this a delicious Southern meal for all to enjoy. Once you’ve added all of those tasty ingredients, you will top it off with the file powder and serve over steamed rice.
- Seafood Gumbo – If you’re looking to appease the pescatarians in your family, seafood gumbo is the way to go. Just load it with oysters, some red snapper, and Louisiana blue crab, and you’re on your way to something uniquely Cajun.
- Jambalaya – Use rice and broth as the basis, before adding things like thyme, cumin, salt, pepper, and of course… gumbo filé powder. Butter in a large skillet for about 5 minutes and then transfer the shrimp to a plate and enjoy.
The History of Gumbo Filé Powder
Often classified as the intersection of European, African, and Native American cultures, gumbo likely dates back to the 18th century. It was used by the Choctaw Indians of the American South, who adapted ground sassafras leaves as a common seasoning for their dishes.
At the turn of the 19th century, gumbo seems to have made its debut in Louisiana culture. It was served at a gubernatorial reception in New Orleans, and a year later was served at a Cajun function on the Acadian Coast.
The word gumbo comes from the West African term okra, but the infusion of filé powder is undoubtedly a North American contribution.
Cultivating Filé Powder
In order to get the end product you see here, one must successfully harvest sassafras. The sassafras harvesting process can be a little physical, especially if you have to dig roots from large trees.
Thankfully, sassafras is typically easy to spot. It’s available year round, but if you’re using it in filé powder you’ll want to take advantage of the green leaves that are available from spring through the early part of autumn.
Sassafras trees can be found in most locations throughout the Midwest and Eastern U.S. From the central part of Florida all the way up through Maine, these trees will grow to heights of 65 feet. In the fall months, they become synonymous with the gold and bronze colors of the season.
Where We Get Our Gumbo Filé Powder
Burma Spice favors the sassafras trees from the Durham area of North Carolina. Although these trees don’t get too terribly large (some could even argue they are more like shrubs than full-grown trees), their leaves are perfectly aromatic. We believe this makes a difference in our filé powder.
Sassafras was part of the region’s first natural resources boom. Sir Francis Drake referred to it as a “wondrous root which kept the starving alive and in fair goode spirit.”
The filé you consume is the result of dried and pounded sassafras leaves.