WHAT IS SUMAC?
Sumac is made from the berries of the sumac flower which are dried and ground into a powder. The name itself comes from the Aramaic word for “dark red.” This plant grows wild in places as diverse as Sicily, Turkey and Iran. Greek and Roman medical texts several thousand years old praise this spice for its health benefits. And with an acidic, almost lemony flavor and fire-engine red color, it’s popular today in Eastern cuisine particularly the spice mix za’atar. While there are over 100 different varieties, in general most sumac sold for consumption is either fragrant (lemon-like) or smooth (red in color). A great addition to hummus or tabbouleh, it adds a lemon twist and a beautiful color contrast at the same time.
WHY IS SUMAC GOOD FOR YOU?
This spice has one of the highest anti-oxidant levels, up there with cinnamon and oregano. Anti-oxidants help to neutralize free radicals which in turn helps prevent heart disease. Historically a popular homeopathic ingredient, the Romans used it as an anti-flatulent and digestive aid.
WHEN IS SUMAC IN SEASON?
This spice is dried so it’s available throughout the year. The plant itself flowers during the end of summer each year.
HOW SHOULD SUMAC BE STORED?
Like most dried spices keep it in a dark, cool location preferably in an air-tight container. If fresh then treat it like lettuce and place in a bag with a damp towel and refrigerate. However this will only keep for a few days at most. When cooking with the berry, partially crush and then soak it for about 20 minutes.