What Are Smilax Vines ?
Smilax vines are native to North America and they have been used for centuries in herbal medicine. They are commonly known as “root beer” because of their bitter taste and because it tastes like drinking water with a few drops of alcohol added. These plants produce a strong, sweet smelling liquid called sap which is very useful when combined with other herbs or spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and ginger.
The sap contains compounds called terpenes which give the plant its characteristic smell. When these plants are dried, crushed and ground into a powder, they become known as “tinctures”.
Some tincture preparations contain up to 80% ethanol. Tinctures can be made from fresh or dried smilax vines and can be stored in a cool dark place for several years before use.
Tinctures are not recommended for human consumption due to the high concentration of ethanol in them. However, they can be used in cooking and making alcoholic beverages such as moonshine.
How To Get Rid Of Smilax Vine?
These invasive plants spread rapidly and are very difficult to get rid of, especially if they are growing on a bank or hill where using herbicides is not a good idea. The best way is to manually dig them up before they have a chance a set down deep roots. Smilax plants can tolerate shade and will invade nearby forest areas. If left unchecked, these vines will soon take over a large area of land.
If you have a large area to clear of smilax, it is better to dig the plants up in sections and replant the native vegetation in that area. This is not only an effective way to eliminate the smilax vines, but it also helps restore the natural environment.
Herbicide can be used for large scale projects where manual labor is not an option or preferred. Before using any herbicide, make sure to read and follow all of the instructions and safety precautions on the label.
What Is The Smilax Root ?
The smilax root has been used for centuries in herbal medicine as a remedy for various ailments. It is also an ingredient in many traditional Cajun dishes. Most people are not aware that the root of the smilax plant can be harvested and eaten either raw or cooked.
The roots can be harvested throughout the year but the best time is in the fall. You can simply break off pieces of root anytime you need them and eat them like candy or cook them in recipes.
There is a constant demand for smilax root because it is an important ingredient in many Cajun dishes. The price of dried smilax root is relatively low, especially when compared to the price of other roots such as the sarsaparilla root.
How Do You Dried Smilax Root?
The first step in preparing your harvest for sale is to cut off all of the stems and leaves. Shake the roots gently to remove any excess dirt.
Next, snap the roots in half to speed up the drying process. You can then lay them out flat to dry or place them in a mesh bag so that air can circulate through them.
You will need to turn the roots regularly so that they dry evenly. Drying smilax root takes around two weeks.
To test if the roots are dry enough, snap one in half. It should crack instead of bending.
Ground smilax root should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for no longer than one year.
How Is Smilax Root Used In Cooking?
Many people are familiar with the stems of the smilax vine since they are often used as a natural alternative to surgical suture material.
However, did you know that the roots are also edible and have a mild flavor similar to potatoes?
Smilax root has a long history of use in traditional Cajun and Creole cooking. It is an important ingredient in many gumbos, especially the ones served during the fall.
High quantities of antioxidants and vitamin C give it a reputation as a health-giving food. The stems, leaves, flowers and fruit of the smilax vine are also edible but should only be eaten in small quantities due to their toxicity.
How Much Does Smilax Root Cost?
The price of dried smilax root varies quite a bit depending on the size of the roots and the supply and demand in the market. A Google search showed prices ranging from $9.00 to $20.00 per pound.
A 10 pound bag of dried smilax root should yield around 5 pounds of usable material. This means that your investment should be back in less than two weeks if you are using it as a substitute for suture material.
A more common use is as an ingredient in gumbos and other Cajun dishes. The price will vary based on the demand in the area and your recipe.
Sources & references used in this article:
In the forest vine Smilax rotundifolia, fungal epiphytes show site-wide spatial correlation, while endophytes show evidence of niche partitioning by CB Zambell, JF White – Fungal diversity, 2015 – Springer
Common greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia L.) as a model for understanding fungal community organization in the phyllosphere by CB Zambell – 2015 – rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu
Common greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia L.) as a model for understanding community organization in the phyllosphere by CB Zambell – 2015 – search.proquest.com
The shrubs and woody vines of Florida: a reference and field guide by G Nelson – 1996 – books.google.com
An ecological study of the golden mouse, Ochrotomys nuttalli, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by DW Linzey – American Midland Naturalist, 1968 – JSTOR
Woody vines of the southeastern states by WH DUNCAN – SIDA, Contributions to Botany, 1967 – JSTOR