Sassafras Tea


Our winter store of Sassafras root.

“You can sip it in the morning, sip it in the evening, Even at a quarter to three, cause I like sassafras, you like sassafras, we like sassafras tea.” ~ Stacey Dillsen, Zoey 101

Today’s theme is ‘beverage’. When I thought of beverage, I thought of Sassafras Tea. I love Sassafras Tea. Bart and I have some root stored up for use during the winter. We love to forage and it’s even better when we can go out and forage together. I often thought that perhaps this was the skill I “inherited” from my Native American ancestors. Then this summer I got to spend about 3 weeks in Georgia researching my family who came from there and I found information about how my Confederate Civil War ancestors often survived during the war by using their foraging skills. I found it fascinating. If you’d like to learn a little more history about Sassafras Tea that even includes information from Appalachian people who lived in the general area my ancestors came from in Georgia, you can go to Appalachian History.

Here is some of the information I found during my research time in Georgia.

This is from an account of a Confederate soldier I found in a book at the library in Rome, Georgia. (I think this was taken from the book: Some Recollections of the Civil War, by a private in the 40th GA Regiment, C.S.A.)

“We were in East Tennessee during our first experience in marching and camping, and although no Federals were near, yet we had our pickets out on all the roads, probably more for the purposes of discipline than anything else, although there was a considerable Union element all through that section.

“One day, a comrade asked and obtained leave from the officer in charge, (on condition we would divide), to go foraging. It was summertime and fruit was plentiful, and we soon came to a brick dwelling near a road nearly surrounded by a splendid orchard loaded with fine fruit. To go and ask for some of the fruit was our first impulse, but, then they might be Union folks and refuse. After discussing the matter pro and con, we finally agreed on a compromise; we would slip in at the back of the orchard and fill our haversacks (and stomachs) with fruit and then my comrade was to take the haversacks to a certain place and wait, while I would go round to the front of the house and, if anyone should be at home, I was to politely ask permission to get some fruit, etc. This plan seemed to have several advantages. In the first place, if no one was at home we would be excusable, for we couldn’t help it if the owner wasn’t there; then, if they granted us permission, we would know we hadn’t done anything wrong; and finally if they were Union people and refused to let us have any fruit, why we couldn’t stick it back on the trees and would be justified in considering it “contraband of war,” and take it into the camp. We carried out our plan, and I came to the front door and knocked. In a few moments a nice, benevolent-looking, sweet-faced old lady appeared, and making my best bow, cap in hand, I told her that myself and my comrade nearby were Southern soldiers, that our camp was not very far away, that we found camp fare rather dry and seeing her fine orchard of fruit, craved permission to get some to eat, etc. With a pleasant smile she replied promptly, “Why bless your heart! Go and get all you want.” Somehow my recollection is that I felt rather crestfallen and sheepish as I went back.

“How completely all such compunctions of conscience were obliterated later on! At a later period in the war I was particeps criminis in a watermelon stea – forage incident – that will show how expert we became.”

The story goes on to tell of a watermelon “foraging” outing but even more importantly it talks about how the soldiers obtained salt when there was no salt to be had. The Southern women who were nearby to the camps and taking care of the soldiers and the Southern women who sent/took goods to the soldiers would, when strapped for salt, dig up the dirt under an area where they had previously cured meats. They would boil the dirt down and strain out the salt. I would never have even thought to do this!

It’s comforting to me to know how resourceful my ancestors were and that when I forage and continue my personal foraging education, I’m carrying on a tradition from both my Native American ancestors as well as the traditions and resourcefulness of the Confederate mothers who walked this earth before me. I hope that if I’m ever in a situation where I am in dire need of this type of resourcefulness and tenacity that I have the same grit and determination as these women! I hope I don’t let them down. I love these women for who they were. They didn’t sit down and cry- they pulled themselves up and did what it took to get through. I love that this is my heritage!!

So today- whatever you may be going through- think about what your people before you went through. Had they given up- would you be here? Don’t give up! If you do, you may be giving up not only on yourself but on those generations that will come after you. The choices you make today may be the strength your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren need for their tomorrows.

Until next time,
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives

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