Whole dried or ground
Sumac is any one of approximately 35 species of flowering plants in the genus Rhus and related genera, in the family Anacardiaceae. Sumacs grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in Africaand North America.
Sumacs are shrubs and small trees that can reach a height of 1–10 metres (3.3–32.8 ft). The leaves are spirally arranged; they are usually pinnately compound, though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The flowers are in dense panicles or spikes 5–30 centimetres (2.0–11.8 in) long, each flower very small, greenish, creamy white or red, with five petals. The fruits form dense clusters of reddish drupes called sumac bobs. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy crimson spice.
Sumacs propagate both by seed (spread by birds and other animals through
their droppings), and by new shoots from rhizomes, forming large clonal
The word sumac traces its etymology from Old French sumac (13th century),
from Mediaeval Latin sumach, from Arabic summāq, from Syriac summāq
Spice and beverage flavoring:
The fruits (drupes) of the genus Rhus are ground into a reddish-purple powder
used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemonytaste to salads or meat. In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on meze dishes such as hummus and is added to salads in the Levant. In Iranian (Persian and Kurdish) cuisine, sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Jordanian and Turkish cuisine, it is added to salad-servings of kebabs and lahmacun. Rhus coriaria is used in the spice mixture za'atar. In North America, the Smooth Sumac (R. glabra) and the Staghorn Sumac (R. typhina) are sometimes used to make a beverage termed "sumac-ade," "Indian lemonade" or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it. Native Americans also use the leaves and drupes of the Smooth and Staghorn Sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.Prior to the importation of lemons in Europe, the ancient Romans
allegedly relied on sumac berries for a sour taste. Throughout the Middle East, even today, many people use sumac as a seasoning and the primary souring agent in cooking or as a decorative garnish at the table. The berries are dried, lightly dry-roasted, ground to a powder, and sifted to remove the hard, inedible seeds and soft, downy fuzz. Fresh berries are soaked in water for fifteen to twenty minutes, or entire seed/berry heads (with attached fuzz) are pounded in water, then drained and squeezed through cheesecloth to extract their ruby juices and antioxidants. The powder keeps—far longer than lemons—-at room temperature; the juice may be refrigerated or frozen. A squeeze of sumac juice can replace lemon in your favorite recipes, particularly if you suffer from citrus allergies.
Sumac was used as a treatment for half a dozen different ailments in medieval medicine, primarily in Middle-Eastern countries (where sumac was more readily available than in Europe). An 11th-century shipwreck off the coast of Rhodes, excavated by archeologists in the 1970s, contained commercial quantities of sumac drupes. These could have been intended for use as medicine, or as a culinary spice, or as a dye. Staghorn sumac is a powerful antioxidant, with ORAC rating over 1500 μmol TE/g.
Sumac leaves and berries are classified as astringent and cooling. Certain Native American and Canadian Indian tribes used sumac to treat bladder, digestive, reproductive, and respiratory ailments; infections; injuries; stomachaches; arrow wounds; and more. The Chippewa Indians of North America made a decoction of sumac flowers to treat gas, indigestion, and other digestive upsets. The Iroquois used sumac as a laxative, diuretic, expectorant, liver aid, and in countless other applications. The powdered bark and dried berries were allegedly combined with tobacco and smoked during peace pipe ceremonies. The inner bark was also used to treat hemorrhoids.
Early pioneers used the berries to reduce fevers, and they steeped and strained the berries and thickened the mixture with honey to yield a soothing cough syrup. Some transformed the berries into wine. Others used the root to produce an emetic tea (to induce vomiting), the bark to make dye, and the leaves to relieve symptoms of asthma.
Sumac berries contain malic acid, which possess antifungal properties and putative anti-fibromyalgic activity; tannic acid, which is present in tea and wine and is known for its astringent activity; and gallic acid, a white crystalline compound used in dyes, in photography, and in ink and paper manufacture.