The other day Sandy, a blogger in Maine wrote about Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) and asked if any of her readers had ever tried brewing tea from the roots. This is something I had been intending to do for quite some time, so with that tiny bit of prodding, I dove in and tried it today.

Step one is to find some wild sarsaparilla, which in my woods is about like finding grass in a golf course. I’ve got it in spades:

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia Nudicaulis)

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia Nudicaulis)


I dug up six or eight plants I guess. I didn’t count. As I dug them up I wound them into coils and put them in a gallon ziplock bag.
Coil of rhizomes

Coil of rhizomes


The longest root I dug up was probably six feet long. The shortest was about a foot, but that was because I accidentally broke it off before I meant to.

That took no more than 15 minutes. The next step was the wash them off, which I did in a small cooler, the garden hose, and two changes of water. Once they were kinda-sorta cleanish, I brought them in and rinsed them again in the sink. Then I popped the whole nine yards (it might have been nine yards too) into a large pot, covered them with water, and set it to boil.

Boiling the roots

Boiling the roots


I used about a half gallon of water and let it boil for probably way too long – twenty minutes or so. That was at least enough time to let it change color.
The color of honey

The color of honey


It came out a light honey-like hue. It might have gotten darker had I boiled it longer, but who knows? One data point is not really sufficient for drawing conclusions.

While it was boiling, more dirt and debris made its way to the surface. I figured a coffee filter would be the perfect way to separate the dirt from the tea, but we don’t use coffee at our house, so I called a neighbor. Beth was up at their house playing with their daughter, and they were immediately dispatched to deliver a dozen or so coffee filters. I dipped the tea out of the pot and into the filter which I had placed over the mouth of a pitcher.

FIltering out the debris

FIltering out the debris


I poured a cup and added a couple tablespoons (again, unmeasured) of honey to sweeten it up a bit (this was recommended in several places I looked for instructions – and none of those places really gave any decent instructions either).

So how was it? Well… kinda like wet honey.