All About Sumac | Know Your Spice Kankrasing or Sumak (Rhus coriaria)
All About Sumac | Sumac is also spelt as Sumak, Sumack, Sumach, or Summac (Rhus coriaria)
The dried fruits of some Sumach species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice popular in many countries. This spice is quite sour.
The fruit are ground into a reddish-purple powder which is used in savoury cooking in the same way as Sumak (sumac berries).
What are the other names of Sumac?
Punjabi: arkol or titri
|Latin: Rhus coriaria
English: Elm-leafed Sumac
What exactly is a Sumac?
Sumac is a variety of flowering shrub that belongs to a family of plants known as Anacardiaceae.
Its scientific name is Rhus coriaria. Other common members of this family include cashew and mango plants.
There are more than 250 different species of sumach, all of which belong to the genus Rhus. It is the largest genus in the family Anacardiaceae.
However, Rhus coriaria — or Syrian sumak — is the variety people most frequently cultivate for culinary use and herbal medicine.
Sumach is used as a spice throughout the Middle East, and its use has also spread to the Iberian peninsula. It is also provided as a condiment to be sprinkled on food at the table.
What is the botanical description of Sumac?
Botanics – Sumac is characterized by the large, dense clusters of bright red, pea-sized fruit it produces. These clusters are called sumac bobs.
The whole fruit appears in dense clusters. Individual berries are small, round, 10 mm (1/4”) in diameter, russet coloured and covered with hairs.
The dried fruits of Rhus coriaria are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice popular in many countries.
The genus Rhus is the genus of shrubs and small trees belonging to the Anacardiaceae or cashew family native to temperate and subtropical zones.
Rhus coriaria is the scientific name of Sumac, which is a flowering shrub or a small tree.
It can grow up to ten meters in height & propagates both by seed and by new roots that propagate underground called rhizomes.
Sumach bushes grow from seed, root cuttings, or suckers. The berries grow in clumps and are ready for harvest in late summer and early fall.
What is the nutrition value of Sumac?
Analysis found that nutritionally dried sumac is made up of approximately 71% carbs, 19% fat, and 5% protein.
The majority of the fat in sumach comes from two particular types of fat known as oleic acid and linoleic acid.
Chemical analysis of fresh sumak fruit found that over 14% of it is made up of fiber.
It also contains at least trace amounts of several essential nutrients, including vitamins C, B6, B1, and B2
What is the chemical composition of Sumac?
The acid content contains malic, citric, and tatric acid plus smaller amounts of succinic, maleic, fumaric and ascorbic acid.
An Iranian study found the following as primary constituents of Sumach
- 78 hydrolysable tannins, 59 flavonoids, 9 anthocyanins
- isoflavonoids, terpenoids, diterpene & 38 other unidentified compounds
What is the history of Sumac?
First brought to North America by European colonists, who in turn acquired the plant from the Middle East, where it originated, sumac has a long history of use as a spice.
Sumach is a native of the Middle East. Everything points out that it was the Arabs who took it to the Iberian Peninsula for industrial purposes, to be used in tanning leather.
Over 2,000 years ago, Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides referred to sumac’s health properties. Sumak was used in classical Rome, before the introduction of the lemon.
Dioscorides served in Roman Emperor Nero’s armies as a physician, pharmacologist, and botanist.
Native to the Middle East, sumach has been used throughout the region for centuries in a plethora of ways.
In ancient Greek and Roman times, sumak was used to dye wool and tan leather. It was also used in alternative medicine for its believed antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
Sumach remains a key ingredient in many Turkish, Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese dishes.
North American natives (Indians) used two native species of sumac—Rhus glabra and Rhus aromatica—to prepare a concoction similar to beer.
What are the uses of Sumac?
Sumac as food & beverage flavouring
The fruits (drupes) of Rhus coriaria are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a tart, lemony taste to salads or meat.
In Afghan, Armenian, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iranian, Mizrahi, and Pakistani cuisines, sumac is added to rice or kebab.
In Azerbaijani, Central Asian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Turkish cuisines, it is added to salads, kebab and lahmajoun.
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”.
Sumac as a tanning agent
The leaves of certain sumacs yield tannin (mostly pyrogallol-type), a substance used in vegetable tanning. Leather tanned with sumac is flexible, light in weight, and light in color.
One type of leather made with sumac tannins is morocco leather. It was believed:
“When sumac dust settles on white marble, the result is not immediately apparent, but if it once becomes wet, or even damp, it becomes a powerful purple dye, which penetrates the marble to an extraordinary depth.”
Sumac in traditional medicinal
Sumac was used as a treatment for several different ailments in medieval medicine, primarily in Middle Eastern and South Asian countries
Sumac as fuel
Some beekeepers use dried sumac bobs as a source of fuel for their smokers.
Sumac for smoking pipes
Sumac stems also have a soft pith in the center that is easily removed to make them useful in traditional Native American pipemaking.
Natives commonly used the pipe stems in the northern United States.
What does Sumac taste like?
sumac berries has a subtle, resin-like taste. It is tangy or sour yet sweet to taste. It should be used when only a hint of tartness is desired.
What can I use Sumac for?
- You can sprinkle it atop basmati rice, grain salads, pita chips, or any type of flatbread.
- Sumac Hummus – Traditional chickpea hummus garnished with sumac for an acidic tang.
- Cucumber Sumac Salad – Chopped cucumbers, feta, and mint dressed in olive oil, red wine vinegar, sumac, salt, and pepper.
- Fattoush Salad – A traditional Lebanese dish of toasted pita, mixed greens tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs tossed in a sumac vinaigrette.
- Condiment – Sumac is often put on the table in shakers or bowls, especially in kebab houses, and is used like salt and pepper.
- Make Za’atar – Sumac is mixed with sesame seeds, salt and thyme to make the popular spice mix called za’atar.
- As a seasoning for fried and barbecued meat.
- Use as a dip for breads when combined with olive oil.
- As a marinade used to increase the acidity in yogurt sauces or vinaigrettes.
- For the enhancing taste and flavour of egg dishes and salads.
- Make a beverage known as sumac-ade, Indian lemonade or rhus juice.
How long does Sumac last?
If properly stored in a cool, dry place, sumac has a shelf life of about two years.
It won’t taste worse after that point, but the sumac will certainly lack the bold and powerful flavour that it once possessed.
How do I store Sumac?
For the best results, keep Sumac stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator drawer as usual. You can also store it as you would other spices in a dark, dry space away from heat & moisture.
Is there a substitute for Sumac?
If you need to replace Sumac powder in cooking then your best options are za’atar, lemon or lime juice, tamarind, citric acid, vinegar, loomi, or amchur.
Each of these ingredients is useful for adding a citrusy, tart flavor to meals.
Remember to use substitutes in small amounts and test the food if you can before adding more. This step will reduce the chance of ruining the dish with unpleasant, awkward flavors.
What are the health benefits of Sumac?
Health Benefits of Sumac (Rhus coriaria) or Benefits of Sumach
- Health Benefits of Sumach Nutritionally – Sumac contains a host of beneficial nutrients. These include fiber, healthy fats, and some essential vitamins.
- Health Benefits of Sumac as Antioxidant – Sumac contains a wide array of chemical compounds with potent antioxidant activity, including tannins, anthocyanins, and flavonoid
- Health Benefits of Sumach for Diabetes – Some research suggests sumac may be an effective tool for managing blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Health Benefits of Sumac for Alleviating Pain –Sumac contains a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that may play a role in lowering blood sugar and alleviating muscle pain.
- Health Benefits of Sumach for Heart Health – The concentration of omega-3 fatty acids and docosahexaenoic acid in heart, kidney and brain cell tissue was increased with supplementation of thyme.
- Health Benefits of Sumach for Digestion – Sumac herb is helpful in the treatment of common digestive disorders, including stomach upset, acid reflux, constipation, feverish symptoms, and irregular bowel movements.
- Health Benefits of Sumac for Cancer – Some studies have shown that the sumac plant has anti-cancer properties.
- Health Benefits of Sumach as an Antimicrobial – Sumac has been found to work against a number of pathogens, including Salmonella bacteria.
- Health Benefits of Sumach for Common Respiratory and Digestive Issues – The Sumach herb has been widely used to treat chest and respiratory issues including cough, chest congestion and bronchitis for a very long time.
Sumac Spice | Make Sumac Spice at Home from Dried Sumac Berries
- 5 Cup Sumac berries
- Let Sumac berries dry in a cool dark place for 10 days.
- Put the sumach berries in a food processor, or blender.
- You will now knock off the dry fruit off of the seed.
- Pulse them in the blender for a while until the seeds are mostly yellow.
- There will be a red dust separated from the seeds. That's your spice.
- Put the mixture through a mesh colander to remove the seeds.
- All that remains is your sumac spice.
- 1 cup of sumac berries makes about 1 1/2 teaspoons of spice.
- Collect the clusters during a dry period, as rain may wash out the acid that makes them sour.
Tools & Equipment Used For This Recipe
FInally! To Sum It Up
All About Sumach | Sumac is also spelt as Sumak, Sumack, Sumach, or Summac (Rhus coriaria)
The dried fruits of some Sumac species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice popular in many countries. This spice is quite sour.
The fruit are ground into a reddish-purple powder which is used in savoury cooking in the same way as Sumac (sumac berries).
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