Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy, lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice or vinegar. Sumac berries have a faint, fruity aroma, tartness and astringency. A small sprinkle adds a beautiful pop of color to any dish. Sumac’s most common uses are in spice blends, dry rubs, marinades and salad dressings. Sumac is often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking on grilled meats, and in stews and rice instead of lemon juice. While it’s less common, sumac berries can be sold whole.
Sumac is native to parts of the Mediterranean, including southern Italy, and to the Middle East and North America. The Romans used sumac juice and powder as a souring agent, while Native Americans gathered the red sumac berries and dried them to be eaten in the winter months. Today it is used in cooking in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Sicily. Shakers of sumac flakes are served on restaurant tables in the Middle East, and it is used in making Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix of sumac, thyme, toasted sesame seeds and sometimes wild oregano.
Benefits of Sumac
Some research suggests Sumac may have the following benefits: