View All Spice Definitions
Information for Sumac
Sumac is a spice that comes from the berries of flowering plants which belong to the Rhus genus under the family Anacardiaceae. These grow abundantly throughout Iran and other areas of the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Italy as well as in other sub-tropical and temperate climates worldwide.
Sumac grows in both small trees and bush forms with spirally arranged pinnate leaves. Its small flowers grow in bunches and may be green, red, white or cream in color. The small round fruits which are drupes, known as sumac bobs, also grow in clusters. These have a deep red color when fresh and are covered with fine brown hairs. Sumac berries are then dried and ground to produce purple colored powder that is slightly aromatic with a strong tangy flavor and a slight fruitiness.
Arabian, Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese cooking all employ the use of sumac widely. It is used mainly as a souring agent, in the same way that lemon or vinegar is used in other cuisines. This is added to salads, rubbed onto meat, mixed into stews, used for marinades and even incorporated in rice dishes. This spice compliments grilled meats of various types as well as vegetables of different varieties.
Photo Credit: peppergrasss