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What is Sumac? | Sumac Health Benefits, Recipes & Uses

Updated on September 13, 2010

What is Sumac - Sumac Health Benefits, Recipes and Uses

Learn all about the health benefits of sumac and uses of sumac here as well as finding lots of sumac recipes. The spice sumac, or sumach, isn't an herb. It's a berry that grows on a Mediterranean bush, and very few people know about it. That's because it grows mostly in southern Italy and the Middle East and is mainly used only in Mediterranean dishes. If you've ever eaten za'atar, you've probably eaten sumac because it is usually one of the ingredients of za'atar.

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Sumac's "Relatives"

Poison ivy (Rhus toxicondendron) is related to it, however, sumac (Rhus coriaria) is not poisonous.

Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) and Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) which are used in North America to make "sumac-ade," "Indian lemonade" or "rhus juice" are also related. Some sumacs are combined with tobacco for smoking.

How Is Sumac Made?

First sumac berries are dried then they are crushed to make the spice. However, fresh sumac berries are sometimes also used to make a juice.

Health Benefits of Sumac

Traditionally, sumac was also used as a medicine. In medieval times it was used to treat about half a dozen ailments.

Research has found sumac to have antimicrobial properties. Research further suggests that it may be used to treat and prevent hyperglycemia, diabetes and obesity due to hypoglycemic properties.

Recent research suggests that sumac has antioxidant properties. In one experiment, the drinking water of animals was supplemented with sumac, and it was found that there was less oxidized DNA bases in their colons, livers, lungs and lymphocytes.

Traditional Uses of Sumac in Authentic Cuisine

*Middle Eastern cuisine - add a lemony taste to salads or meat

*Arab cuisine - a garnish on mezze dishes such as hummus and added to salads in the Levant

*Iranian (Persian and Kurdish) cuisine - added to rice or kebab

Sumac Cooking Videos

Cooking Videos on Sumac's "Relatives"

Questions, Comments, or Suggestions?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: There is alot of sumac growing wild in the usa, it's extremely common. DOn't use white sumac, it's poison!!!

      The crossings premium outlet in Tannersville, pa has a lot of red sumac at the back of the parkinglot, it's ripe right now.

    • jumesbond lm profile image
      Author

      jumesbond lm 4 years ago

      @anonymous: First, make sure that the species you have is edible. The berries should be dark red or purple, and surface of the fruit should be hairy or grainy, not smooth. The edges of the leaves should be toothed, not smooth, if it is edible. If they are smooth, then it's poisonous.

      The seeds with the hairy red coating are the berries. You can harvest the berries when they are dark red. Make sure they are tart. If they aren't, they might not be ripe yet. They may also lose flavor if it has just rained.

      If you want to make the sumac-ade drink, use the berries directly. You can also make an extract with it for cooking. Soak them in water for at least 15 minutes then strain. Do not use hot water. You can crush them a little to get out more. Longer soaking will make the flavor stronger.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a sumac tree in my garden. Is the herb the red pods that grow in the fall ? How does one prepare it to be consumed ?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Sumac is related to both cashews and mangos, so if allergic to either of those it should be avoided

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Waitrose sell Sumac from Barts Spice range

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: in any middle eastern or mediternian food stores.

    • jumesbond lm profile image
      Author

      jumesbond lm 4 years ago

      @anonymous: You can order it online or you might find it at an international grocery store or a Middle-Eastern food store.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Were can I found sumac

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Just made a sauce with sumac for turkey burgers from YOTAM OTTOLENGHI cookbook. Easy and delicious!

      Mix yogurt(2/3c) with sourcream(1/2c) add 1tbs sumac, lemon sezr, lemong jusice,1tbs olive oil and enjoy!(plus salt, pepper)

    • jumesbond lm profile image
      Author

      jumesbond lm 5 years ago

      @anonymous: It's possible. Did you get the sumac in the store or did you find it in the wild? It's related to poison ivy, and your reaction sounds similar to that of poison ivy.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Is there any data researching possible allergic reactions to sumac? Recently I had this delicious herb with roasted lamb, but a day later I broke out with two large welts on my forehead? A couple of weeks later ingested the herb again & that evening had the same reaction. Could it be this herb?

    • medicalassistan profile image

      medicalassistan 5 years ago

      Something new to try out. Healthy too! I love kebabs so this is probably where I'll start.

    • medicalassistan profile image

      medicalassistan 5 years ago

      Something new to try out. Healthy too! I love kebabs so this is probably where I'll start.

    • profile image

      realhealthy 5 years ago

      Hi

      Thanks for sharing. Never heard of Sumac before. Learned something new. Cheers

    • profile image

      deragonflyz 5 years ago

      I love Sumac! I put it on hot potato and carrot chips with a bit of salt pepper and sweet chilli sauce. So yummy! Also great on tofu fried with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I just saw a jar of Green Zatar on the shelf of a local shop that lists sumac as an ingredient. Reading the ingredients: wheat, coriander, chicory, anis, chickpea, war herbs, vegetable oil, thyme, sumac, sesame seed, salt. .I thought, wow, sounds good, so i had to go back and buy it from a shop in Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, UK. It says to serve it with olive oil on any kind of bread I suppose. I think I will also try it on a salad.