While walking the dog by the river this morning, I noticed the full bloom of the Sumac trees. At first glance, just some shrubbery that we’ve been seeing our whole lives, but there is more to the Sumac than meets the eyes.
Last summer, I read in my handy Peterson Field Guide book, Edible Wild Plants Eastern/Central North America, that you can make a lemonade-style drink out of the strange looking, wooly ‘drupes’, or the fruit of the Sumac. Simply soak them in cold water for 15 minutes, then strain the pink liquid through cheese cloth to remove the fuzzies, add sweetener, and voila – you have an old school Native American beverage!
According to Wikipedia;
-Native Americans used Sumac leaves and drupes in their tobacco mix.
-Sumac leaves contain vegetable tannins which are used for dying and tanning.
-There are 35 species of Sumac, but beware, the ones that grow white drupes are poisonous!
-Drupes are dried, ground, and used as a culinary spice in some Middle Eastern countries. The spice gives a lemony taste to meat and salads.
So next time you see a Sumac, take a closer look at the fruit. Do you find those fuzzy drupes appetizing?