Sumac originates from the Middle East. Its scientific name is Rhus Coriaria and it belongs to the Ancardiaceae family.
This spice has been used since ancient times, when it was used mainly by the Arabs and the Greeks. Sumac was often used in this period instead of lemon or vinegar. The Ancient Romans used it for medical and nutritional purposes. Nowadays, sumac is widely used in Turkey, Lebanon and Europe.
Sumac grows on a tree that can reach 3m in height and in dry and chalky soils. The shrub thrives in the sun, which encourages its growth. Its dense leaves turn orange and red in the autumn. Sumac blooms from June to July.
The tree produces reddish-purple berries, harvested before they are ripe, then dried and stored whole or transformed into powder (coarsely ground or crushed). Note: There is a variety of sumac that grows in America, but it is not edible.
Sumac is an essential spice in Middle Eastern cuisine. The fruity flavour of sumac strengthens the taste buds. Sumac powder has a very salty taste, so it can be used instead of salt.
It is mainly used to flavour fish, seafood, kebabs and salads. Sumac is becoming more and more widely used in Europe.
In Lebanese and Turkish cuisines, sumac is often mixed with yoghurt or used to make sauces to go with dishes.