Spicy Gumbo with Purslane Bishop’s Elder & Sassafras Leaf

Makes 4 servings

Wild puslane (Portulaca oleracea) takes the place here of the okra used in traditional gumbo recipes. It has similar thickening properties, but adds a flavor all its own. Closely related to celery, bishop’s elder (Aegopodium podograria) replaces that vegetables here. The filé powder stirred into traditional gumbos is made from dried powdered sassafras (Sassafras albidum) leaves – a tree native to our region’s forests (and parks)!


¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup bishop’s elder stems and leaves, chopped
1-3 fresh or dried hot chilé peppers
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups chopped purslane leaves and stems
2 links andouille, chorizo, or other smoked sausage cut into ½-inch chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoons filé powder
Salt to taste
(Plus cooked rice to serve the gumbo over)


In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the roux is a rich brown color. Remove from the heat and let cool for 1 minute.
Add the onion, bell pepper, bishop’s elder and hot peppers. Return to the heat. Whisk in the stock. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking constantly.
Reduce the heat to a medium. Add the purslane, sausage and garlic. Simmer until the sausage is cooked and the vegetables are tender, 10-15 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Stir in the filé powder and salt to taste. Serve over cooked rice.

Vegan Variation: leave out the sausage, add 1 cup cooked beans, substitute 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo for the hot chilé peppers.