What is sumac?
the first edition of Spice Root, we’ll
explore the origins of sumac — a bright fuchsia garnish with a citrusy, earthy flavor found in Mediterranean and
Middle Eastern cuisine. Sumac is usually derived from the poisonous shrub of
the same name. The culinary variety, however, is safe to eat and easily
identifiable by its vibrant red berries. These berries are crushed into a
coarse powder and sold as a ground spice that adds color and tartness, similar to
metallic character of sumac is almost unmistakable! A common feature in
Palestinian, Lebanese and Turkish cuisines, its slightly vinegar-like flavor adds a punch to any salad,
marinade or dressing. The ingredient is sprinkled over soups, dips, loaves of
bread, meats, rice and veggies. It’s
often mixed in za’atar, a
traditional spice blend which contains marjoram,
oregano, thyme, cumin, coriander, toasted sesame seeds and salt.
Beyond savory dishes, sumac can even be used
to prepare a variety of desserts. Take Chef Aryan’s recipe, for instance. Our Learning
Facilitator put an Arabic twist to the classic gujiya by combining sumac, za’atar and pomegranates. “I
wanted to reduce the dessert’s
sugar content and realized that sumac was the perfect way to do so!
Rich in Vitamin A & E, it’s
an effective antioxidant which prevents cancer, reduces blood pressure and
curbs diabetes. I always encourage students to experiment with food and
teaching them such techniques has been a real treat. Once they learn the precise
method, they are free to innovate and create their own dishes.”
roots: Middle East
Taste: lemony, vinegar-like
in: Vitamin A, Vitamin E,
Proceed with caution:
you’re worried about
accidentally picking poison sumac berries, just remember that the lethal
variety is white, not red.