Sumac is a ground-hugging shrub with thin leaves and spherical clusters of fruit. Its flavor is tart, lemony, and astringent. It can be eaten raw or cooked depending on the type of sumac you’re using for your recipes.
Types of Sumac:
There are two main types of sumac that are edible and readily available at grocery stores:
-European (Rhus coriaria):
The most common species, European sumac has a red berry.
-Asian (Hemidesmus indicus or Rhus verniciflua):
Asian sumac has a deep pink to purple berry and is the least astringent type of sumac.
Sumac is native to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and North Africa. It has been used medicinally for centuries as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory agent, and blood purifier. Sumac adds a lemony flavor to foods and can be used in place of lemon juice (although it’s less tart).
Is all sumac edible?
No. Although most sumac is edible, some varieties can be poisonous. Only use the one that you are familiar with to ensure that it’s safe for consumption before trying it in your cooking.
Can I substitute sumac for lemon juice?
Yes, you can use sumac in place of lemon juice for making salad dressings, marinades, and dips, although it’s less tart than lemons.
How do I dry sumac?
You don’t need to dry it first before using it. The flavor is better if you just use it fresh. If you plan on keeping the sumac for a long time, place it in a jar and cover it with two tablespoons of olive oil.
-2 tbsp. sumac
-Juice from one lemon
-1/4 cup sugar or honey (optional). Use less or none if you plan on using the sumac to make a dressing or marinade.
-1/2 cup water
-Crushed ice for serving
In a medium saucepan, bring the sumac and lemon juice to a boil. Let it simmer until almost all of the liquid evaporates. Add 1/4 cup of sugar/honey if you plan on using it to make a drink or if you want it to be sweet. If you’re planning on using the sumac for your dish, skip adding sugar/honey. Add water and stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Place in glasses filled with ice cubes.
Garlicky Sumac Skillet Corn:
-2 tbsp. sumac
-1 tsp salt
-3 ears of corn
-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced in a food processor or blender
-Butter for skillet (optional)
With a damp paper towel, remove silk from corn. Place the corn with the garlic in a nonstick skillet. Cook on medium-high until the garlic is slightly browned and corn becomes fragrant. Add sumac and salt to taste. Remove from heat, add butter if desired, and serve immediately with crusty bread.
Persian-style grilled sumac chicken:
-2 tbsp sumac
-4 chicken thighs
-1 lemon, cut in wedges
Season chicken with salt and black pepper. Grill until cooked through. Remove from heat. Sprinkle sumac over the chicken pieces before serving, or over the rice if you’re serving it with rice. Garnish with lemon wedges.
Sumac-rubbed grilled salmon with rice pilaf:
-2 tbsp sumac
-4 (4 oz.) wild or farmed salmon fillets, skin removed if desired
-1 cup white basmati rice, divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup portions
-1 tbsp unsalted butter
– chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
Season salmon with salt, black pepper, and sumac. Grill until cooked through. Add 1/2 cup of rice to the pan after removing the salmon so it can soak up all the sumac and butter left in the pan.