Sumac is a spice often used n Middle Eastern cuisine. It is actually a berry that is ground into a powder. There are many varieties of sumac, some of which are poisonous. Generally the bush that produces the white berries is poisonous while the ones with the red berries are not. It is best to buy sumac that is prepared for consumption.
‘Rhus’ is Greek for sumac and often used in the nomenclature to denote certain types of this bush.
Sumac that is native to the Mediterranean region can be found in Lebanese and Turkish cuisine, amongst others. It is sour like lemon but not as tangy as vinegar. Store-bought sumac is often processed with salt giving it a saline taste. You can find it in specialty spice shops and Middle Eastern grocery stores. Sumac is said to contain malic acid and tannic acid giving it antifungal and astringent properties respectively. It also contains antioxidants while some studies have shown sumac helps lower blood glucose in Type II diabetics and reduces cholesterol levels. Sumac is commonly found in Middle Eastern dishes like tabouli and fattoush salad, za’atar (spice mix), hummus and baba ghanoush. You can also use it:
- to season roast vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes and bell pepper
- make a spice rub for tofu
- flavour seitan donair kebabs
- spice up guacamole or some lemon thyme zucchini fritters
Any dish containing lemon would benefit from a hit of sumac.