|Sumac plants in winter.|
There are 250 species of sumac growing in subtropical and temperate regions all over the world. The fruits of the genus Rhus are ground into a deep-red or purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads and meat.
In Arab cuisine, sumac is used as a garnish on dishes such as hummus and added to salads in the Levant. Iranian food features sumac on kebabs and lahmacun. In North America, the smooth sumac and staghorn sumac can be used to make "sumac-ade", "Indian lemonade", or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the berries in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it. Native Americans also used the leaves and drupes of the smooth and staghorn sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.
|Photo of sumac berries drying out from First Ways. Blogger Rebecca Lerner suggests spreading the berries out on a shelf in a warm, dry room.|
Sumac contains calcium, potassium, magnesium, citric acid and antioxidants, according to a plant physiology study conducted by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Sumac bark is useful medicinally as an astringent tea for anti-diarrhea purposes. It’s also antibacterial.
Here's our friend Bob Laisdell showing how to retrieve the drupes (clusters of berries):
And our friend Rick Lopez showing off the berries up-close:
Fresh Sumac Iced Tea
- Remove the berries from the drupes.
- Pour nearly boiling water over the berries and steep for an hour. Smoosh the berries in with the water. Strain the berries.
- Chill the drink.
- Take the warm berries and add to an ice cube tray. Fill with halfway spring water or with the drink itself and freeze.
- A few hours later fill up the ice cube tray. This way the berries will be prevented from floating to the top. Freeze again.
- Add the ice cubes to your glass and fill with the chilled drink. Add sweetener if you like.