Updated: Feb 4, 2019
The sumac or vinegar tree (Rhus typhina), also known as sumac amaranth, hairy sumac, staghorn sumac, sumac or fox tail sumac, is a dioecious tree species of the family “Anacardiaceae”.
The dried and powdered fruits of “Rhus coriaria” are used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Sumac grows in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in East Asia, Africa, and North America.
The fruits (drupes) of are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a tart, lemony taste to salads or meat.
In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on meze dishes such as “hummus” and “tashi”, and is added to salads in the Levant, as well as being one of the main ingredients in Palestine's national dish, “musakhan”.
In Afghan, Armenian, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iranian, Israeli cuisine and Kurdish, Pakistani cuisines, sumac is added to rice or “kebab”. In Azerbaijani, Central Asian, Jordanian and Turkish cuisines, it is added to salads, “kebab” and “lahmajoun”.
Rhus coriaria is used in the spice mixture “za'atar”.
In North America, the “smooth sumac” and the “staghorn sumac” 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.