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Exploring the Remarkable Root Beer Leaf

Scientifically called the Piper auritum, the peppery root beer leaf is also called hoja santa—or, the sacred leaf. While being cooked, the flavor of sassafras—along with cloves, nutmeg, mint, and black pepper—carries through the process whether these edible leaves are being grilled, fried, pureed, or steamed. Its lovely scent wafts, as well, including as the leaf is being picked or chopped. 

Here are three ways that Chef Jamie Simpson uses these incredible heart-shaped leaves in dishes. 

At the Bar: Grilled Tamales

Its no secret root beer leaf is an excellent material for wrapping special ingredients. Hoja Santa as its commonly known imparts the beautiful and delicate aroma of safrole. when gently warmed, the volatile compounds explode. The flavor of sassafras carries through every step of the cooking process, grilled, dried, fried, pureed, chopped, steamed, frozen, or picked and eaten raw right off the plant.

Fine Dining: Steamed Leaf

A gently steamed leaf of Hoja Santa with a salad of soft scrambled eggs and brassicas.

Country Club Dining: Two Bite Pick-Up

We often only see hoja santa as whole leaves wrapping food to impart flavor. In this case we opted to make it a sauce. Its served with lake fish and a salad of complimentary leaves dressed with lake fish roe. Hoja santa, sorrel, fennel, carrot, trout. walleye roe.

More About Root Beer Leaf

Root beer leaves are extra large and velvety, dark green in hue—imparting luscious flavor and aroma. As you brainstorm creative ways to use them in your dishes and menus, reach out to your product specialist for your own hoja santa

We hope you enjoyed this installment of plating food techniques! 

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