Sumac’s Numerous Uses

Sumac grows pretty abundantly here in the Midwest.  You'll see it along highways, roadsides, in parks and on the edges of yards.

I think it looks rather stately in late summer and early fall with its reddish fruit, called drupes, popping out from the green vegetation.

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There is a poisonous sumac, but it has white berries.  So its pretty easy to stay away from that particular plant.  I had always thought all sumac was poisonous, but now I know better.

Sumac has a few different uses, from creating a beautiful natural backdrop, to being a refreshing beverage, to being a lemony spice to top off a food dish.

I never know sumac could be eaten, till a few years ago, when I came across an article for sumac-ade.  So I had to give it a try, since I had a lot of wild sumac near me.  And I have to say I was surprised at the refreshing taste, like a twist on lemonade!

Sumac-ade is made by putting the fruit in a large jar or bowl and running cold water over it.  Let it sit for an hour or two and then strain out the fruit, leaving an infused lemony tasting beverage!  Some people will make a hot infusion, but I think that brings out more tartness, so I prefer doing the cold water method.

You can get a sample of the lemony tart flavor by just rubbing your fingers on the fresh fruits and licking your fingers.  But don't do it after a rainfall, as it will wash away the flavor.  Wait till the fruits are dry.

Sumac, in its many forms, can be found throughout the world.  In the Middle East, the sumac fruit is ground up into a spice that they use on some of their dishes to give it that slight lemony taste.  Za'atar is a spice blend using sumac.  You can find the recipe here.

Sumac is very high in Vitamin C and I've heard it can be added to a homemade natural cough syrup.  It is also an antioxidant.

I picked some sumac a few weeks ago and have let it dry.  I'm now working on getting all the fruit off of the stems so I can grind it up and make some sumac spice.  I'm anxious to try it on some of my food dishes.

Just need to find a coffee grinder first...

Resources and References:

http://www.backyardforager.com/sumac-a-necessary-spice/

http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/how-to-make-za-atar-spice-at-home

https://nowiveseeneverything.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/sumac-rhus-typhina-and-rhus-glabra/