Staghorn sumac berries are a summer harvest item I look toward with anticipation each year. This spice has been used for thousands of years, particularly in the Middle East and Near East, as well as North Africa. Recognize immature berries by their pale green color. To avoid potential particulate contaminants from fuel exhaust, it is best to pick sumac away from busy highways. Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) with drupe panicles (berry clusters) ready for harvest. Be sure to filter the pink liquid through a tea strainer, cheesecloth or paper coffee filter before drinking to remove any fibers that naturally occur with the drupes. Taste one drupe before picking to make sure that it is ripe, with a tangy, lemony flavor. Chef Shawn Adler shows how to identify — and transform — this vibrant plant we pass on the road. Harvesting Staghorn Sumac Harvesting Staghorn Sumac But isn't sumac poisonous? And you gathered it from living nature in your backyard. To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). It’s best to harvest them after an few dry days, the sumac flavor will be diluted following a rain so you don’t want to pick wet sumac. But, for those Peconic foragers among us, it’s also time to harvest sumac, the native tree whose red-berried cones are reaching their zenith of flavor. Read on for sumac tree info and growing tips. Soak freshly cleaned and purchased seeds for 12 to 24 hours in room-temperature water. And there are reports that they also mixed dried sumac leaves with tobacco and placed that in their pipes. Sumac berries are also used in beekeeping smokers. The only time it’s tricky to harvest staghorn sumac is in the late spring, when the old pods have begun to degrade and the new ones are still too green to harvest. It shares the Latin name rhus with hundreds of other species, several of which are “poisonous,” but not lethal. Our picks for the East End’s best things to eat and drink, along with fantastic food markets, food sellers, food artisans and other shops. After pointing out ripe blackberries and letting us all taste the sweet, juicy fruits, the leader of the tour pointed to a short, bushy tree with brilliant red cones on the tops of the branches. Generally, birds don’t go in for sumac, but early spring arrivals are less picky. The bright red clusters of autumn berries often last into winter. When you can’t stand it any longer, harvest your sumac by cutting off whole cones where their stems join the branch. Feel free to add additional ingredients or substitute the ones here. These were found mid August, and are usually good right into late September. Do not eat any wild food unless you can positively identify it. Harvesting your own sumac berries is easy. Harvest Recipe: Sumac Jelly One of the things I miss the most about not living in the northern part of the US is the annual fall sumac fruiting. “Never touch it.”. They are not red. To my amazement he has a chapter on sumac with recipes for drinking teas made from those same red cones I was warned against many years before. The sumac (Rhus spp.) “That’s poison sumac!” she said. If it’s bitter, you are too early, if it’s bland, you’re too late. At their peak, the clusters of … In Eastern USA there are several different species of sumac. A tablespoon or two of the drupes steeped in hot water, or left to sit in water outdoors on a sunny day, should yield one to two flavorful cups of  “Indian lemonade.”. Prolific, hearty and tart, the crimson berry clusters are a versatile ingredient in your fridge and your cupboard. The cone shaped clusters of red, velvety berries are a dead giveaway. Harvest Staghorn Sumac by breaking off the berry clusters. They can produce itchy rashes on contact, such as poison ivy, poison oak and even a species of sumac called poison sumac. In northern Wisconsin it is time to harvest sumac berries. In central Arizona, the berries ripen in June. Collect your Berries. In this episode of Forage, chef Shawn Adler shows how to identify Rhus typhina, or Staghorn sumac, one of the most common varieties of sumac to grow within Canada. In the wild it is … The clusters always grow in a distinct cone shape and are easy to harvest by cutting where they attach to the stem of the plant. Berries are fleshy and often juicy and typically have many seeds. Harvest the red cones in August when they are bright and full and before heavy rains that can wash out their color and flavor. Sumac fruits are dry, consisting of a thin coating over a single seed. You will want to collect the clusters during a dry period… All three of these have clusters of fuzzy red berries that grow tightly together, a very distinctive feature. A fun and healthy way to enjoy a sumac harvest… Sumac has a tart, citrusy flavour that lends itself well to many recipes that call for a bit of zest! Note also: In the Toronto area, sumac drupes usually reach peak ripeness in August or early September. The sumac gives us a fruit, the big red cone, composed of individual drupes, similar to the little drupes that make up the knobbed appearance of common raspberries and blackberries. And visit Edible Communities to find the publication nearest you. Fast forward 20 years, and I am a young doctor in residency with an interest in wild foods and their possible health benefits. When you find edible sumac, taste it before taking it - - put a fuzzy berry in your mouth. Flowers bloom in June and July they are in dense panicles of greenish-red small five petaled flowers. In about 10 minutes a person can fill a 5 gallon bucket of them. In the fall sumac’s leaves turn a bright red. I enjoy the dark green color and shape of the sumac’s summer foliage, sometimes appearing tropical like palm trees, and other times like a tree in a prehistoric jungle awaiting megafauna to eat its fruit cone whole and wander off to propagate its seeds. There are numerous wild edibles that can be harvested and enjoyed with youth. Forage: How to harvest wild sumac and use it to make a zingy batch of Sun Tea. Plus there is the added healthful psychological boost of knowing that this local tree that provides a tasty, seasonal drink, as well as a spice, has been used by millions of people for thousands of years. Watch for berries to appear in midsummer after the June flowers fade and hang under the leaves. You may feel a slight stickiness from touching the red cluster, and when you lick your fingers you will taste the tartness. Sumac berry clusters are ready to be picked in late summer (august) when they are deep reddish/burgundy color. Audience Relations, CBC P.O. The sumac is a considered a small tree or shrub, growing on average about 15 feet tall. Edible sumac berries are a dense, upright, red cluster. Also, people can be allergic to sumac, just like everything else. Box 500 Station A Toronto, ON Canada, M5W 1E6. In leafless winter the staghorn sumac tree looks like large antlers reaching for the sky, making sumacs popular ornamentals. Making Sumac Tea Harvest the red cones in August when they are bright and full and before heavy rains that can wash out their color and flavor. Sumac berries also have a long history as an herbal remedy. Traditionally, Native Americans would make a vitamin C- rich drink known as “sumac lemonade” by infusing the berries in water. Sumac trees and shrubs are interesting throughout the year. Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) growth early in the season. Three common species grown in the United States are staghorn sumac, fragrant sumac, and smooth sumac. Comments are welcome while open. Red sumac berries are vitamin c rich berries that grow in many areas of the world. Making sumac tea is a particularly enjoyable activity for youth as they will have fun making the tea and reap the reward of their efforts by having a … Sumac has upright fruit clusters, usually red and covered in a velvet fuzz (pictured above); these clusters are called drupes. If they are still green you don't want them. Staghorn Sumac is the most common sumac that grows in Northeastern USA. Serve over ice. It’s best to wait a few days after a rain, since rain will wash away much of the tart flavor in the fruit. What are commonly referred to as sumac “berries” are actually clusters of seeds that ripen from off-white to a deep, dark red through the summertime. The show begins with large clusters of flowers in spring, followed by attractive, brilliantly colored fall foliage. The ‘Lemonade Tree’: It’s Time to Harvest Sumac. In the fall the leaves turn a bright red. The fruits of this deciduous shrub are cone-shaped clusters of fuzzy red berries. Sumac is, in fact, one … Or, break apart the cones and dry them at 95F … Fast-growing, pest- and disease-free and drought tolerant, it is the only shrub found in all 48 contiguous states. If you’ve ever driven down a Canadian highway, chances are you’ve spotted some wild sumac on your travels. Editor’s note: It’s early August, which means tomato season is peaking (the Tomato Lady in Sag Harbor just opened this week). Please visit our sister magazines, Edible Manhattan, Edible Brooklyn, Edible Long Island and the Edibles in New York State. To harvest, find the most brightly colored clusters and use the finger test. How to Harvest and Preserve Sumac. Taste one drupe before picking to make sure that it is ripe, with a tangy, lemony flavor. Edible East End is published four times a year and available by subscription, for sale at selected retailers and at other distribution spots throughout Long Island. Poison sumac – which grows in the Eastern US — has white or gray berries, where edible sumac has red, brown, purple or maroon fruit. Many herbal teas are considered diuretics, improving kidney function and ridding the body of toxins. I read a newly popular book by Euell Gibbons called Stalking the Wild Asparagus. Sumac berries contain malic acid, which possess antifungal properties and putative anti-fibromyalgic activity; tannic acid, which is present in tea and wine and is known for its astringent activity; and gallic acid, a white crystalline compound used in dyes, in photography, and in ink and paper manufacture. It has red clusters of berries rising above the foliage. Add peach, blueberries, cherries, or other fruit of your choosing.Â. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Taste a berry before harvesting. Check out the video above for Shawn’s full guide, then scroll down to grab the recipe. (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';fnames[1]='FNAME';ftypes[1]='text';fnames[2]='LNAME';ftypes[2]='text';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Be the first to know about invite-only happenings, delectable giveaways and when new issues hit the streets. One that we have in abundance here in Central PA is Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina. You can expect to find good ones if you taste around, until early October and sometimes later and there are always those with just a hint of flavor. It is impossible to mistake the edible sumac, such as the staghorn, with the poisonous one. In any event there are definitely micronutrients in sumac, vitamins and minerals, that are good for health. gets around. A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you. Cones can be dried by placing them in a paper bag and hanging them somewhere dark and dry for 2 – 4 weeks. Sun tea is all about making it your own. This is the first time I've processed a spice. One of the signs of summer’s end in our house was the first sighting of ripe sumac berries. I quickly un-learned my “false” lesson and explored this wild food: I’ve been enjoying it ever since. Staghorn Sumac Growing In A Sunny Spot. Early pioneers treated coughs, sore throats and fevers with sumac, while American Indians used these berries to treat anything from reproductive problems to stomachaches and wounds. Until the Romans introduced lemons to Europe, sumac was used as a spice to impart foods with a lemony tang and lovely burst of color. Smooth Sumac and Winged Sumac drupes are hairless when examined under a stereomicroscope. Sumac is one of the easier wild foods to identify though. Fill a large vessel with cold water. (By: Eike Wulfmeyer Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic) That's what we want!! To test to see if the fruit is … Begin to look for smooth sumac in mid July. Soak the ripe berries in water overnight. Poison sumac berries are loose and they dangle down from the branch. These sumac plants probably sprang from seeds dropped by birds, but they can also propagate by shoots from rhizomes, creating thickets of clones sometimes seen on roadsides or hilly slopes. The tree is known for its bright red berries, and the berries of certain species—rhus glabra, rhus typhina, and rhus copallinum, notably—can be dried, ground, and used in traditional Middle Eastern and North African cooking. Rinse the seeds under warm water to remove any remaining pulp. Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted. You need to be aware of this when you eat sumac for the first time. In each episode of Forage, he teaches us how to source in-season ingredients from our own backyards and sustainably forage them, before turning them into a delicious dish we can make and devour in our own kitchens. It makes an attractive topping on foods such as hummus, with a mild spicy flavor. The staghorn sumac, named for the velvety covering on its new branches, similar to the velvet on a stags new antlers, is a common and widespread species of edible sumac. Clip off at the base of the clusters with pruning shears as early in the season as you can, and dry sumac before it succumbs to insects or mold. How to Grow Sumac From Seed. Sumac trees are very easy to grow and maintain. The red berries — red by virtue of the same reddish hairs that cover the tree’s branches — are a great source of malic acid, the substance that gives them a tart, lemony flavor. Native Americans of the Northeast, where sumac abounds, have used this fruit for millennia to make a tart drink and the white settlers quickly learned this technique too. Don't worry too much about poison sumac, for while it shares a name, it has white berries, not red ones. It reminds me of processing tobacco in the barn as a kid. The plant, which boasts furry red cones full of tiny berries, grows abundantly along roadsides and is often used ornamentally in home gardens. Sumac … It is often called "Indian Lemonade," and for good reason, these little berries are tart as all get out, but sweeten up very nicely. However, as of 2016, the Navajo Nation crop farm Navajo Agriculture Products Industries (NAPI) was growing and harvesting sumac berries for commercial distribution on the Navajo Nation. Anishinaabe chef Shawn Adler has been harvesting wild edibles since his mother first showed him how as a child. Then he shares a recipe that turns those findings into a refreshing summer beverage — one so zingy that it even rivals lemonade. I love these things! The natives also used its narrow branches, with pithy centers, to fashion pipe stems after they removed the pith to hollow them out. It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges. The large, bright red cones of the edible sumac at the tips of the branches look nothing like the small clusters of white berries of the poisonous plant. Closed Captioning and Described Video is available for many CBC shows offered on CBC Gem. Sumac is a deciduous shrub native to North America found in all 48 mainland states of USA and in southern Canada. The berries ripen in summer and tend to be wet and sticky when ripe. Add sumac and mint. The edibl… Sumac tea falls into that category. Stir to combine, then cover it and let steep in the sun for about 3 hours. The drupes are best if picked before rain. By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. We reserve the right to close comments at any time. For an adult version, feel free to add vodka or another spirit of your choice. The cones store well in a paper shopping bag in a cool place for months and should yield good tea until springtime when mints can be harvested from the herb garden for a different tea. Although I have found good-tasting berries into April, this is the exception; around here the vast majority of them are spent by the end of August. When harvesting them you want the brightest red ones you can find. The berries should be extremely tart, like a lemon. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Scrape them over a screen or sieve to clean the pulp from the seeds. I was an 8-year-old city boy on a nature hike in the Catskills. And you might know that beyond its striking appearance, sumac carries a tart, lemon-like taste that adds incredible flavour to anything it touches. You’ve probably noticed that I have been calling the fruit of sumac “drupes” instead of berries. After drying my sumac harvest and rubbing the berries off the bobs, I ground it by hand with mortar and pestle. Add some “good” to your morning and evening. Currently, sumac is mostly wild harvested for home consumption only. You’ll often see the last remnants of last years pods picked over by the early spring birds. Passed through a sieve to remove the seeds and stems, an amazing spice emerged. Late July through early August is the optimum time to harvest it’s fruit. The plant also gives us a spice, derived from the seed inside each drupe which is dried and ground into a red powder that looks like paprika. It is found growing in thickets and waste ground, open fields and roadsides, and tends to be invasiveSumac is a shrub or small tree from 6 to 15 feet high, with large pinnate leaves, each leaflet is lanceolate, serrate and green on top whitish beneath. It is one of the easiest things to harvest. 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