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Botanical Name: Rhus coriaria
Common Names: Sumac.
English: Shumac, Sicilian sumac
German: Sumach, Gewürzsumach, Färberbaum, Gerbersumach, Essigbaum
Nepali:Bhakmilo, Amilo (Rh. chinensis)
Habitat : Sumac is native to Middle East and Mediterian countries.It grows several places in the Euperian Continent.
Sumacs are shrubs and small trees that can reach a height of 1–10 m (3.3–32.8 ft). The leaves are spirally arranged; they are usually pinnately compound, though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The flowers are in dense panicles or spikes 5–30 cm (2.0–11.8 in) long, each flower very small, greenish, creamy white or red, with five petals. The fruits form dense clusters of reddish drupes called sumac bobs. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy crimson spice.
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Propagation: Sumacs propagate both by seed (spread by birds and other animals through their droppings), and by new shoots from rhizomes, forming large clonal colonies.
The fruits (drupes) of the genus Rhus are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on meze dishes such as hummus and is added to salads in the Levant. In Iranian (Persian and Kurdish) cuisines, sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Jordanian and Turkish cuisines, it is added to salad-servings of kebab and lahmacun. Rhus coriaria is used in the spice mixture za’atar.
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”. This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth, and sweetening it. Native Americans also use the leaves and drupes of the smooth and staghorn sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.
Sumac is a very popular condiment in Turkey and Iran, where the ground fruits are liberally sprinkled over rice. Mixed with freshly cut onions, it is frequently eaten as an appetizer. The well-known Turkish fast food specialty döner kebap is sometimes flavoured with sumac powder.
In Jordan, a spice mixture called zahtar is extremely popular; it took its name from a local species of marjoram which is one of its main ingredients. Since this West Asian marjoram is hardly available outside of the region, it must be substituted by a mixture of marjoram with some thyme or oregano. Zahtar is, then, made by combining the dried marjoram herb with nutty sesame seeds, acidic sumac, salt and optionally some pepper. Similar mixtures are reported from Syria and Israel. Zahtar is mostly used to spice up fried and barbecued meat up to taste; combined with olive oil, it can also be used as a bread dip like the closely related Egypt spice mixture dukka.
Another use of sumac is recorded from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt: The fruits are cooked with water to a thick, very sour essence, which is, then, added to meat and vegetable dishes; this method was also common as early as in Roman times (see silphion for details of Roman cookery) and finds a close parallel in the usage of tamarind in contemporary Indian and Indonesian cuisines.
Outside of the Middle East, the true sumac spice is not known; yet, there are sumac species with culinary merit also further in the East. For example, Rh. chinensis (Chinese Sumac) grows in the Himalayas, in China and South East Asia. In Nepal, it is used to prepare a delicious sour and fruity pickle (amilo achar by some Himalayan ethnicities like the Thakali. In the North East Indian states Nagaland and Mizoram, sumac fruits are dried, coarsely ground and used as table condiment, or (often mixed with salt and chile powder) just enjoyed between meals.
It is said to have diuretic and antipyretic properties.Sumac was used as a treatment for half a dozen different ailments in medieval medicine, primarily in Middle-Eastern countries (where sumac was more readily available than in Europe). An 11th-century shipwreck off the coast of Rhodes, excavated by archeologists in the 1970s, contained commercial quantities of sumac drupes. These could have been intended for use as medicine, as a culinary spice, or as a dye. Staghorn sumac is a powerful antioxidant.Medical uses have included digestion and bowel problems.
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Dye and tanning agent:
The leaves of certain sumacs yield tannin (mostly pyrogallol-type), a substance used in vegetable tanning. Notable sources include the leaves of R. coriaria, Chinese gall on R. chinensis, and wood and roots of R. pentaphylla. Leather tanned with sumac is flexible, light in weight, and light in color. One type of leather made with sumac tannins is morocco leather.
Some beekeepers use dried sumac bobs as a source of fuel for their smokers.
Sumac stems also have a soft pith in the center that is useful in traditional native American pipemaking. They were commonly used as pipe stems in the northern United States.
Dried sumac wood fluoresces under long-wave ultraviolet radiation
Known Hazards: Some species formerly recognized in Rhus, such as poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans, syn.Rhus toxicodendron), poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, syn. Rhus diversiloba) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix, syn. Rhus vernix), have the allergen urushiol and can cause severe allergic reactions. Poison sumac may be identified by its white drupes, which are quite different from the red drupes of true Rhus species.
Mowing of sumac is not a good control measure, since the wood is springy, resulting in jagged, sharp-pointed stumps when mowed. The plant will quickly recover with new growth after mowing. Goats have long been considered an efficient and quick removal method, as they eat the bark, which helps prevent new shoots.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.