Lebanese, Middle Eastern and Persian cuisines have integrated the Sumac spice in many traditional dishes. Sumac is a reddish/velvet coarse spice with a tangy flavor that goes well with grilled fish, Zaatar (wild thyme herbal mix), grilled meats, salads etc… It is featured in some of our recipes including Zaatar and Fattoush Salad. Sumac ripens in summer and is then dried and ground to produce the spice.
The type of Sumac that is readily available in the US is Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Hirta- Rhus Glabra), which grows wildly in the Northeast US and is a bit different than the type that grows in the Middle East even though not that far apart. Staghorn Sumac should not be confused with poison Sumac, which scares people due to the detrimental effects it has on our skins. The two can be easily distinguished: Poison sumac has large white berries, and Staghorn Sumac has much smaller red hairy berries.
Aside from its use as a spice, Sumac makes for an excellent and quite refreshing drink that rivals lemonade. It’s casually called “Sumac-Ade.” It packs some good nutrients including Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and Malic acid. The plant also contains Calcium malate, Dihydrofisetin, Fisetin, Iodine, Gallic-acid-methylester, tannic and gallic acids, Selenium, Tartaric-acid, and many beneficial minerals. In other words, it’s quite healthy and nutritious, and it’s used in folk medecine and is also a subject research in modern medecine. See this link for more information on Sumac’s medecinal uses.
In this recipe, we’re going to feature how to make a refreshing drink of Sumac-Ade, or Sumac Lemonade, from freshly picked Staghorn Sumac cones.
Note: Sumac is related to cashews and mangoes, anyone allergic to those foods should avoid it.
Recipe: Sumac-Ade Refreshing Sumac Drink
Summary: Sumac spice makes for quite a refreshing summer drink that rivals lemonade. It is smooth, tangy and sweet.
Sumac-Ade Ingredients (3 Servings)
- 3 cones of freshly picked Sumac
- 3 cups of fresh cold water
Sumac-Ade Preparation Method
- Pick the sumac around August in order to make sure it is ripe. Ripe sumac has a dark velvet color. Also ensure that you don’t pick the Sumac cones immediately after rain since it tends to wash away the flavor.
- With your hands, remove the small Sumac berries from the stems and place them in a container filled with fresh cold water. You’d want about 1 cup of water for each cone.
- Crush the berries with your hands for a couple of minutes, or you could alternatively put the mixture into a blender and let it blend away.
- Let rest for about 30-60 minutes depending on how strong of a flavor you want.
- Strain using a cheesecloth, and sweeten to your liking. Serve cold with ice.
- Do not boil the Sumac cones, as that can produce a bitter taste. However and alternatively, soaking the Sumac cones in hot water can yield to a nice healthy tea.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Diet type: Vegetarian
Diet tags: Low calorie, Reduced fat, Reduced carbohydrate
Number of servings (yield): 3
Culinary tradition: Middle Eastern
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