FOODIES WEST.COM         
 SUMAC BERRIES:
Think lemons.
June 2015 Issue / Vol. 3, No. 11                                                                                                                                                                                                               





      
Iron Chef/Restaurateur Victor Casanova

      
Executive Chef
Martin Scott

      
Chef de Cuisine
Colin Rupp


      
June 2015
Chef's Larder


How do you use Sumac Berries?

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Q Tonic
Quinine Tonic Water

     
Toro Latin Restaurant:
Scottsdale, Arizona
       
     
Binkley's Restaurant:
Cave Creek, Arizona
 
     
Herbs & Spices
by Jill Norman

      
Leblon Cachaça:
featuring Steve Luttmann


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Sumac Berries: Think Lemons Admittedly, sumac does not make for a popular ingredient around these parts. But the berries are an essential ingredient in the Middle East, especially Lebanese and Iranian (Persian) fare. The rose-colored berry appears in Aleppo blend and Za’atar, and it feels right at home with yogurt sauces, vinaigrettes, and any meat or nut dish that can take a tangy dusting. Sumac grows all over the world, and it does best in a deciduous environment. The U.S.’s trophy sumac bush, Rhus typhina, produces hefty clusters of berries best described as red flames. It thrives in northern climes, especially the Midwest, where it grows along roadsides and fields. The sumacs found in the American West, R. aromatica, R. integrifolia, and R. glabra, favor high desert canyons that have enough persistent moisture to support a deciduous forest. The same type of conditions its cousin, R. radicans var. rydbergii (western poison ivy) likes and bigtooth maple trees. To get an idea of how the sumac berry tastes, think lemons—tart, with an astringent bite, and a fruity lilt. Sumac berries contain 10.65-percent citric acid and some malic acids, so they make a tasty rubescent lemonade, sorbet, you-name-it; and its water or sugar infusion swaps nicely with sour ingredients at the bar. But right now, June, is not harvest time for sumac. The berries don’t ripen until late summer. Their clusters appear as an intermezzo between their elongated leaves’ emerald of summer and stunning autumn color, which vies with the fire of maples. June, however, is the perfect time to pluck berries from sumac’s high desert cousin, R. aromatica var. trilobata, otherwise known as Skunk Bush. This one grows on dry hillsides, along with pinyon trees. Its berries have a glandular coating that looks oily in the sun. They have that same lemon-tartness with a distinctive floral spice that pops up toward the end. It’s the type of taste that would add a lovely distinction to anything you’d make with lemons.